Prof. Khan specializes in law and economic history, with a focus on Europe and the United States. An award-winning author, her research has helped to pioneer an entirely new field, the cliometrics (or quantitative economic history) of intellectual property and technological change.
Her first book, The Democratization of Invention: Patents and Copyrights in American Economic Development, 1790-1920 (Cambridge University Press and NBER), received the Alice Hanson Jones Biennial Prize for outstanding work in North American economic history. This monograph analyzes the sources of U.S. technological leadership, and highlights the critical role of democratic open-access intellectual property institutions in promoting broad-based creativity and increases in overall social welfare.
Her second book, Inventing Ideas: Patents, Prizes, and the Knowledge Economy (Oxford University Press), was also awarded the Alice Hanson Jones Biennial Prize for outstanding work in North American economic history.
Inventing Ideas shows how and why the United States overtook other countries to become the global leader in innovation. The extensive empirical analysis provides a definitive micro-foundation for macroeconomic endogenous growth models. The results show how top-down innovation systems, in which elites, state administrators, or panels make key economic decisions about prizes, rewards and the allocation of resources, proved to be ineffective and unproductive. By contrast, markets in patented ideas increased the scale and scope of new technologies, fostered diversity and inclusiveness, generated greater knowledge spillovers, and benefited the wider population.
Current book projects include Women in the Republic of Enterprise, an exploration of women’s entrepreneurship and innovation. She also empirically assesses gender differences in shareholding, wealth and investment, corporate governance, and the role of family networks in the mobilization of financial capital during early industrialization.
Education and Appointments
Prof. Khan holds a B.Sc. (First Class Honours) in Economics, Sociology, and Statistics from the University of Surrey in England; an M.A. in Economics from McMaster University in Canada; and a Ph.D. in Economics from UCLA.
She is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); and was a Hoover National Fellow at Stanford University. She has been a Fulbright Scholar, Senior Fellow at the Lemelson Center, and Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Australian National University; as well as a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, NYU Law School, UC Berkeley School of Law, UCLA School of Law, Harvard University, and Stanford University. The NBER awarded her the prestigious biennial Griliches Fellowship for outstanding empirical research.
Prof. Khan has made extensive presentations to academic, professional, and general audiences throughout North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.