Migration and innovation: Does cultural diversity matter for regional R&D activity?


  • Annekatrin Niebuhr

    1. IAB Nord, Regional Research Network, Institute for Employment Research, Projensdorfer Straße 82, D-24106 Kiel, Germany (e-mail: annekatrin.niebuhr@iab.de)
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    • I would like to thank Christoph Grenzmann (Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft) for the generous provision of regional R&D data and Andrea Stöckmann for excellent research assistance. Financial support from the Volkswagen Foundation is gratefully acknowledged as part of the Study Group on Migration and Integration ‘Diversity, Integration and the Economy’. I thank Herbert Brücker, Eckhardt Bode, Stefan Fuchs, Rüdiger Wapler and anonymous referees for helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier version of this paper. The usual disclaimer applies.



Recent theoretical research deals with economic costs and benefits of cultural diversity related to immigration. However, empirical evidence regarding the impact of cultural diversity on economic performance is still scarce. We analyse the effect of cultural diversity of the labour force on patent applications for a cross-section of German regions. The results suggest that differences in knowledge and capabilities of workers from diverse cultural backgrounds enhance performance of regional R&D sectors. As regards innovation, the benefits of diversity seem to outweigh the costs caused, for example, by communication barriers.


La investigación teórica reciente trata los costos económicos y los beneficios de la diversidad cultural relacionados con la inmigración. Sin embargo, aun son escasas las pruebas empíricas relacionadas con el impacto de la diversidad cultural sobre el desempeño económico. Analizamos el efecto de la diversidad cultural de la fuerza laboral sobre solicitudes de patentes para una muestra transversal de regiones alemanas. Los resultados sugieren que las diferencias en conocimiento y capacidad de los trabajadores de orígenes culturales diversos mejoran el rendimiento de los sectores regionales de I+D. en cuanto a la innovación, parece ser que los beneficios de la diversidad superan con creces los costos que implican, por ejemplo en barreras de comunicación.

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