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Abstract

Developing countries rely on technology created by developed countries. This paper demonstrates that such reliance increases wage inequality but leads to greater production in developing countries. I study a Brazilian innovation program that taxed the leasing of international technology to subsidize national innovation. By exploiting heterogeneous exposure, I show that the program led firms to replace technology licensed from developed countries with in-house innovations, which led to a decline in both employment and the share of high-skilled workers. I explain these findings using a model of directed technological change and cross-country technology transactions. Firms in a developing country can either innovate or lease technology from a developed country, and these two technologies differ endogenously regarding productivity and skill bias due to factor supply disparities in the two countries. I show that the difference in skill bias and productivity can be identified using closed-form solutions by the effect of the innovation program on firms' expenditure share with low-skilled workers and employment. By calibrating the model to reproduce these effects, I find that increasing the share of firms that patent in Brazil by 1 p.p. decreases the skilled wage premium by 0.02% and production by 0.2%.

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