How do the foreign-born perform in inventive activity? Evidence from Sweden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Using a new database that matches patent applications by Swedish residents with demographic information from 1985 to 2007, we examine differences in inventive performance by individuals of foreign and domestic origins, in terms of quantity (probability of patenting, total number of patents per inventor) and quality (forward citations, probability of grant) of patents. We further compare adult and child immigrants with their Swedish-born counterparts. Holding other variables constant, we find that the immigrants are generally less likely to patent than the Swedish-born. Nonetheless, the general group of immigrant inventors, including those who migrated as adults, performs as well as the native inventors and therefore seems more positively selected. Compared with the Swedish-born, the immigrants who migrated as children are disadvantaged in both quantity and quality of patents, which may be linked to a lack of Sweden-specific human capital. Whether education was received in Sweden does not seem to make a difference for the immigrants who migrated as adults. In summary, this study provides an initial impression of the inventive performance, contribution and challenges of distinct groups of immigrants who have differing characteristics and backgrounds.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • Immigrants, Inventors, Children, Adults
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)659-695
JournalJournal of Population Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch

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Yannu Zheng, 2017, Lund: Printed in Sweden by Media-Tryck, Lund University. 232 p.

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