Closing the Innovation Gap in Pink and Black

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011022-WP-Closing the Innovation Gap in Pink and Black-Cook Gerson and Kuan

Lisa D. Cook, Michigan State University
Janet Gerson, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Jennifer Kuan, California State University, Monterey Bay


Recent research shows the negative impact of discrimination not only on the targets of discrimination but also on the economy as a whole. Racial and gender inequality can limit the entire economy’s productive capacity and innovation outcomes. Using new data from NSF’s Survey of Earned Doctorates on the scientific workforce from 1980 to 2019, as well as patenting and commercialization data, we examine racial and gender disparities at each stage of the innovation process—education and training, the practice of invention, and commercialization. While improving along certain dimensions over time, we find persistent racial and gender disparities consistent with the current literature. To reverse the negative effects on productive capacity and long-run economic growth, we also discuss the literature on mitigating discriminatory practices at each juncture, which could have significant distributional effects as access to good jobs expands.


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