A new paper by University of Chicago economists Ufuk Akcigit and John Grigsby and Harvard economist Tom Nicholas takes a look at the role that immigrants have played in innovation by matching patent and census data from 1880 to 1940. CityLab staffer Tanvi Mirsa reports on this new working paper that shows how immigrants influenced the geography of inventiveness.

The paper shows immigrant inventors gather in technological areas that are already rapidly developing and where their ideas are in demand:

And when many of them work together, they influence each other, compounding the ingenuity in their own field and others, Nicholas explains. This “spillover effect” is the reason why some places become powerhouses of innovation and economic growth. Silicon Valley is the most obvious modern-day example.

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