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 a mental health disorder. This paper examines the effects of such disorders and treatment, using individual-level registry data on mental health diagnoses. We find that mental health conditions carry immense earnings penalties: Compared with the population, people with depression earn 35 percent less, people with bipolar disorder earn 38 percent less, and people with schizophrenia earn a full 74 percent less. These results hold when we compare people with a disorder to their siblings, controlling for a person’s family background. People with mental health disorders also face substantially higher risks of zero earnings and disability. To investigate the causal effects of mental health, we examine the approval of lithium as a treatment for bipolar disorder (BD) in 1976. Baseline estimates compare career outcomes for people with and without access to treatment in their early 20s, the typical age of onset for BD. We find that access to treatment eliminates one third of the earnings penalty from BD. Moreover, it reduces the risk of zero earnings by more than one third, and it reduces the risk of disability by nearly two thirds. Notably, both the costs of mental health disorders and the benefits from treatments are concentrated in the bottom quantiles of earnings and among people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds..
In 1921 and 1924, the United States first implemented national origins quotas to stem the inflow of low-skilled immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europeans and maintain the “Nordic” character of its population. Using rich biographical data on American scientists, we investigate whether these quotas inadvertently discouraged Eastern and Southern European (ESE) scientists from coming to the United States. Biographical data reveal a dramatic decline in the arrival of ESE scientists after 1924, even though the Acts had targeted unskilled workers. To examine how this change affected American scientists and their inventions, we match scientists with US patents. Methodologically, our analysis applies tools from topic analysis to matched records on countries of birth, education, research topics, and patents for nearly 100,000 American scientists. Using k-means clustering to identify the fields of Eastern and Southern European scientists, we find that the Act led to a substantial decline in invention by American scientists in the fields of Eastern and Southern Europeans. We also show that US immigration policies benefited other countries without comparable ethnicity-based restrictions. For example, Canadian scientists patented more in fields of ESE scientists after 1924 compared with native-born US scientists.