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The end of the Cold War brought great changes across the political and economic landscapes. But it also affected the academic world in significant ways.
In a new research paper titled "The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians," which is to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Professors George J. Borjas of Harvard Kennedy School and Kirk B. Doran of the University of Notre Dame examine the impact made by the emigration of Soviet mathematicians to the United States and other countries.
"Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was little collaboration and only infrequent exchanges between Soviet and Western mathematicians," the authors write. "After the collapse of the Soviet Union, over 1,000 Soviet mathematicians migrated to other countries, with a large fraction settling in the United States. In addition, the mathematicians who remained in the Soviet Union became part of the globalized publications market in mathematics."
Borjas and Doran analyzed a spectrum of data relating to academic publications and citations and the production of so-called "home run" breakthroughs in the field. They report several key findings:
"Our empirical evidence does not support the conjecture that the Soviet influx generated substantial positive externalities for the pre-existing mathematics workforce," the authors conclude. "We do not believe this finding arises because American mathematicians did not gain new ideas from the Soviet influx. Rather, we interpret the evidence as suggesting that there may be surprisingly resilient constraints that can counteract those gains."
George J. Borjas is the Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy. He received his PhD in economics from Columbia. His teaching and research interests focus on the impact of government regulations on labor markets, with an emphasis on the economic impact of immigration. He is the author of Wage Policy in the Federal Bureaucracy; Friends or Strangers: The Impact of Immigrants on the U.S. Economy; Heaven’s Door: Immigration Policy and the American Economy; and the textbook Labor Economics.