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How Do Inventors’ Political Preferences Affect Innovation?
John M. de Figueiredo, Duke University and NBER
Co-authors : Trijeet Sethi, Capital One and Brian S. Silverman, University of Toronto
Team production in innovation has growing in importance. Simultaneously, political polarization has been increasing over time. This paper examines how inventor political ideology affects innovation team formation and subsequent team innovative productivity. To examine these questions, we match North Carolina-resident inventors in the USPTO patent database to their voter registration records, which contain individuals’ political affiliation and aspects of their voting behavior. We also geo-locate each patent assignee to create a risk-set of potential co-inventors in each organization location and in each county. Using a variety of statistical techniques, we describe both the regularities in the data and results from econometric analysis. We estimate that 53%-62% of NC inventors are U.S. citizens, the vast majority of whom are male, white, and middle-aged. Republican (Democratic) inventors are overrepresented (underrepresented) in NC relative to the underlying distribution of voters in the state. Citizen-inventors are civic-minded, more so on almost every dimension than a similar sample of citizens. Republican inventors pursue different technologies than Democratic inventors. In econometric estimations we show that there is political homophily within co-invention teams: Democrats (Republicans) tend to form teams with other Democrats (Republicans). We also assess the performance of innovative teams in terms of conversion of patent applications into granted patents. Ideologically homogenous teams tend to underperform ideologically heterogeneous teams.