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 each scientist's 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.
Demand uncertainties create major obstacles for financing technological innovation, as well as creativity in the arts. This paper uses detailed book-level data on Romantic Period English literature to investigate crowdfunding as a mechanism to finance innovation in the presence of significant demand uncertainties. A simple model yields conditions under which authors choose alternative financing, and specifically crowdfunding. We show that new authors, female authors, and authors in new genres face substantially greater demand uncertainty than established authors, men, and authors working in established genres.. Detailed book-level contract data reveal that entrants, women, and authors in new genres are more likely to crowdfund their works. We find that crowd-funded works have lower payoffs on average but are substantially more likely to become a major hit. Exploring variation across genres, we show that crowdfunded novels for women (and by women) were more likely to be published in multiple editions, suggesting that realized demand exceeded expected demand in this emerging genre. Crowdfunded women’s novels are also more likely to be translated and have an increased probability of long-run success. Using text analysis to measure novelty, we show that crowd-funded titles are likely to present new ideas than publisher-funded works.
Patents are intended to encourage innovation and economic growth. Yet, throughout history, countries have chosen piracy instead of patenting during their most critical phase of economic development, often blatantly imitating - and then improving - foreign technologies. My research examines historical innovations in countries with and without patent laws to document the “best” system of patenting evolves with economic development and industrialization.
Feeding the world’s growing population is one of the most critical policy challenges for the 21st century. With tightening constraints on natural resources, such as water and arable land, agricultural innovation is quickly becoming the most promising path meet the nutrient needs for future generations. To feed a growing population, existing agricultural land and crops will have to be used more intensely to produce higher yields per acre. Land not currently used or usable in agricultural production will have to be accessed through improvements in agricultural methods or innovations in crops. Increasing variability in climate raises the need for developing new crops that can tolerate droughts, heat, or extreme cold. At the same time, in many of the world’s wealthier countries the share of GDP devoted to agricultural R&D has declined in the last three decades, and there is active discussion of the returns to public and private spending on agricultural R&D. Surveys of the literature suggest that returns to agricultural R&D may have trended down over time. But measuring returns to R&D, in agriculture or any other sector, is notoriously difficult. Whether there are important unmeasured non-market benefits is an open question. This book provides new evidence on factors that encourage – and discourage – investments in R&D in agriculture, and on the returns to agricultural R&D.