Q: Your study used a unique name-matching technique to identify ethnic patterns. Why did you choose this methodology?
A: This project employs the names on U.S. patents to determine probable ethnicities of the inventors. For example, inventors with the surnames Wang and Ming are more likely Chinese than Hispanic.
The central advantage of this approach is that the ethnic assignment is at the individual patent level. There are over 7 million inventors associated with U.S. patents since 1975. This micro-level assignment allows us to characterize ethnic contributions at levels of detail not otherwise possible: For example, the annual Chinese percentage of U.S. inventors can be refined down to the 1992 Chinese share of IBM's inventors in Silicon Valley working in semiconductors. This exceptional detail, especially within individual firms and schools, allows us to answer many more questions than previous data sources.