This paper exploits variation in the adoption of copyright laws – due to idiosyncratic variation in the timing of Napoléon’s military victories – to investigate the causal effects of copyright laws on creativity. To measure variation creative output, we use new data on 2,598 operas that premiered across eight states within Italy between 1770 and 1900. This analysis indicates that the adoption of basic levels of copyright laws raised both the level and the quality of creative output in states with copyrights. The benefits of additional years of copyright, however, decline with the existing length of copyrights. Composer-level analyses indicate that much of the observed increase in creativity was driven by immigrants, who were attracted to states with favorable copyright terms. Consistent with agglomeration externalities, we also find that cities with a better pre-existing infrastructure of performance spaces benefitted more copyright laws.
Copyrights, which establish intellectual property in music, science, and other creative goods, are intended to encourage creativity. Yet, they also raise the cost of accessing existing work - potentially discouraging future innovation. This paper uses an exogenous shift towards weak copyrights (and low access costs) during WWII to examine the potentially adverse effects of copyrights on science. Using two alternative identification strategies, we show that weaker copyrights encouraged the creation of follow-on science, measured by citations.This change was driven by a reduction in access costs, allowing scientists at less affluent institutions to use affected knowledge in new follow-on research.
One in twelve Americans is affected by depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or another type of mental health disorder. This paper uses individual-level registry data and a change in the treatment of BD to investigate the career effects of mental health. Cross-sectional analyses show that mental health disorders carry immense earnings penalties. After a diagnosis, earnings drop by roughly one fifth for people with depression, one fourth for people with BD, and two fifths for people with schizophrenia. To identify the causal effects of mental health, we exploit the approval of lithium as a maintenance treatment for BD in 1976. Comparing earnings penalties for people with differential access, we find that access to treatment eliminates more than one third of the earnings penalty from BD. Disability is an important mechanism for lower earnings. Compared with their siblings, people with BD are 4.5 times more likely to receive disability; access to treatment eliminates more than half of this excess risk. We also find that parental wealth mitigates the career effects of mental health. Compared with the top quantile of parental wealth, people in the bottom quantile suffer substantially more severe adverse effects from mental health disorders, and they benefit three times as much from treatment. .
In 1921 and 1924, the United States first implemented ethnicity-based quotas on immigration, which remained in place until the 1960s. The goal of these “Quota Acts” was to keep out low-skilled immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe (ESE) and preserve the “Nordic” character of America’s population. This paper investigates whether such nationality-based immigration rules may have inadvertently discouraged highly skilled ESE scientists from moving to the United States. Using rich biographical data on more than 80,000 American scientists, we find that the quotas led to a substantial decline in the arrival of ESE scientists, even though they had targeted unskilled workers. To examine how this change affected American science and invention, we introduce a new method of linking scientists with their patents (exploiting information on a scientists’ age). To identify the pre-quota fields of ESE scientists, we apply methods from topic analysis (specifically, k-means clustering) to the research topics of scientists. This analysis reveals that the quotas led to a large and permanent decline in American invention. Compared with other fields, American scientists produced around 60 percent fewer additional patents in the pre-quota fields of ESE scientists after the quotas. This decline in American invention persisted through World War II and into the 1960s.