Tapping into Talent: Coupling Education and Innovation Policies for Economic Growth

Ufuk Akcigit, University of Chicago, NBER, and CEPR, Jeremy Pearce, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Marta Prato, Bocconi University and IGIER

How do innovation and education policy affect individual career choices and aggregate productivity? This paper analyzes the effect of R&D subsidies and higher education policy on productivity growth through the supply of innovative talent. We put scarce talent, higher education attainment, and career choice at the center of a new endogenous growth framework with individual-level heterogeneity in talent, financial resources, and preferences. We link the model to micro-level data from Denmark on the backgrounds of who obtains a PhD and becomes an inventor and the outcomes of a set of policy interventions. We find that R&D subsidies can be strengthened when combined with higher education subsidies, which enable talented but poor youth to pursue a career in research. Education and innovation policies not only alleviate different frictions, but also impact innovation at different time horizons. Education policy is more effective in societies with higher income inequality.