fbpx A Calculation of the Social Returns to Innovation - Lawrence Summers | Harvard Kennedy School

HKS Affiliated Authors

Frank and Denie Weil Director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government
Charles W. Eliot University Professor


September 2020, Paper: "This paper estimates the social returns to investments in innovation. The disparate spillovers associated with innovation, including imitation, business stealing, and intertemporal spillovers, have made calculations of the social returns difficult. Here we provide an economy-wide calculation that nets out the many spillover margins. We further assess the role of capital investment, diffusion delays, learning-by-doing, productivity mismeasurement, health outcomes, and international spillovers in assessing the average social returns. Overall, our estimates suggest that the social returns are very large. Even under conservative assumptions, innovation efforts produce social benefits that are many multiples of the investment costs."