Bronwyn H. Hall, Distinguished Fellow 2024


Bronwyn H. Hall is Emerita Professor of Economics at University of California Berkeley, where she has been on the faculty since 1987. Her work over the past four decades, which includes over 80 articles and book chapters and numerous edited volumes, has greatly shaped the innovation field, including seminal studies on patents, patent citations, the relationship between R&D and productivity, and the econometrics of firm-level microdata. 

Hall was part of the first large scale effort to link firm-level financial and performance data with patent information at the NBER in the 1980s. Her work with collaborators in this decade-long project established the value of patents as indicators of inventive activity, setting the stage for the entire field. Hall used these data in her own seminal studies of the links between corporate restructuring and takeovers and R&D.  A subsequent effort to link patent applications with citations helped to further stimulate the use of patents in the study of innovation.  A key contribution by Hall and her coauthors was to show that firm value was more strongly related to citation-weighted stocks of patents than to simple counts of patents, affirming the value of citations as a measure of quality. Another recurring theme in Hall’s work has been the relationship between R&D and productivity. In a series of papers she examined this link in the U.S., France and Italy while helping to push the frontier in productivity measurement.

Though her work clearly demonstrates the value of patents as indicators of innovation, Hall has also shown that patenting is itself an economic choice, and that the changes in the legal environment can lead to large changes in patenting activity.  In a highly influential study she combined detailed firm-level data on patents with interviews of managers at major semi-conductor firms to help understand the surge in patenting in that industry in the 1990s. 

One of Hall’s signature accomplishments was the 2010 Handbook of the Economics of Innovation. In addition to co-editing the two-volume handbook, she also co-authored two separate chapters, providing insightful overviews of the literatures on the financing of R&D and on the returns to R&D.  She has also written influential reviews of the literatures on incentives for R&D, the diffusion of innovations, and the relationships between public and private R&D.

Throughout her career, Hall has been on the cutting edge of applied microeconometrics. Her first published paper introduced the BHHH approximation to the Hessian of the likelihood function. Her early work on patents led to one of the first applications of Poisson models to panel data settings.  She was the founding partner of the software company TSP International whose programs were widely used by economists for many years.

In addition to her academic contributions, Hall has participated in expert panels at the National Research Council and the European Commission, testified at FTC hearings, and been a member of numerous committees for research networks and professional associations. She served as an AEA representative on the Census Advisory Committee.  Hall has also been an influential mentor and advisor of young economists, serving on 70 PhD dissertation committees at Berkeley. A number of her advisees have themselves become major contributors to the innovation field.

In recognition of Bronwyn Hall’s accomplishments as an economist, policy advisor, and mentor, and her many years of service to the profession we are honored to recognize her as a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association.