DP11755 The Rise of American Ingenuity: Innovation and Inventors of the Golden Age

Author(s): Ufuk Akcigit, John Grigsby, Tom Nicholas
Publication Date: January 2017
Keyword(s): census, demographics, Earnings, growth, innovation, inventors, migration, patents
JEL(s): N11, N12, O31, O40
Programme Areas: Economic History, Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=11755

We examine the golden age of US innovation by undertaking a major data collection exercise linking US patents to state and county-level aggregates and matching inventors to Federal Censuses between 1880 and 1940. We identify a causal relationship between patented inventions and long run economic growth and outline a basic framework for analyzing key macro and micro-level determinants. We explore drivers of regional performance including population density, financial development, geographic connectedness and social structure. We then profile the characteristics of inventors and their life cycle, measure the returns to technological development, and document the relationship between innovation, inequality and social mobility. Our new data help to address important questions related to innovation and long-run growth dynamics.