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Birds of a Feather - Better Together? Exploring the Optimal Spatial Distribution of Ethnic Inventors

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  • Ajay Agrawal
  • Devesh Kapur
  • John McHale

Abstract

We examine how the spatial and social proximity of inventors affects knowledge flows, focusing especially on how the two forms of proximity interact. We develop a knowledge flow production function (KFPF) as a flexible tool for modeling access to knowledge and show that the optimal spatial concentration of socially proximate inventors in a city or nation depends on whether spatial and social proximity are complements or substitutes in facilitating knowledge flows. We employ patent citation data, using same-MSA and co-ethnicity as proxies for spatial and social proximity, respectively, to estimate the key KFPF parameters. Although co-location and co-ethnicity both predict knowledge flows, the marginal benefit of co-location is significantly less for co-ethnic inventors. These results imply that dispersion of socially proximate individuals is optimal from the perspectives of the city and the economy. In contrast, for socially proximate individuals themselves, spatial concentration is preferred - and the only stable equilibrium.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12823.

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Date of creation: Jan 2007
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12823

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  1. Borjas, George J, 1995. "Ethnicity, Neighborhoods, and Human-Capital Externalities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 365-90, June.
  2. Knack, Stephen & Keefer, Philip, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-88, November.
  3. William R. Kerr, 2008. "Ethnic Scientific Communities and International Technology Diffusion," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 518-537, August.
  4. Peter Thompson & Melanie Fox-Kean, 2005. "Patent Citations and the Geography of Knowledge Spillovers: A Reassessment: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 465-466, March.
  5. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S71-102, October.
  6. Edward L. Glaeser & David Laibson & Bruce Sacerdote, 2002. "An Economic Approach to Social Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 437-458, November.
  7. Alesina, Alberto & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2005. "Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance," Scholarly Articles 4553005, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2003. "Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2028, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  9. Zucker, Lynne G & Darby, Michael R & Brewer, Marilynn B, 1998. "Intellectual Human Capital and the Birth of U.S. Biotechnology Enterprises," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 290-306, March.
  10. Ajay Agrawal & Iain Cockburn & John McHale, 2003. "Gone But Not Forgotten: Labor Flows, Knowledge Spillovers, and Enduring Social Capital," NBER Working Papers 9950, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Peter Thompson & Melanie Fox-Kean, 2005. "Patent Citations and the Geography of Knowledge Spillovers: A Reassessment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 450-460, March.
  12. Ramana Nanda & Tarun Khanna, 2007. "Diasporas and Domestic Entrepreneurs: Evidence from the Indian Software Industry," Harvard Business School Working Papers 08-003, Harvard Business School, revised Feb 2009.
  13. Sorenson, Olav & Rivkin, Jan W. & Fleming, Lee, 2006. "Complexity, networks and knowledge flow," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(7), pages 994-1017, September.
  14. James E. Rauch, 2001. "Business and Social Networks in International Trade," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1177-1203, December.
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Cited by:
  1. William Kerr & William Lincoln, 2010. "The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and US Ethnic Invention," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp978, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  2. William R. Kerr, 2010. "The Agglomeration of U.S. Ethnic Inventors," NBER Chapters, in: Agglomeration Economics, pages 237-276 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Vitor Trindade & Johannes Moenius, 2007. "Networks, Standards and Intellectual Property Rights," Working Papers 0705, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  4. Bengtsson, Ola & Hsu, David H., 2013. "Ethnic Matching in the U.S. Venture Capital Market," Knut Wicksell Working Paper Series 2013/8, Knut Wicksell Centre for Financial Studies, Lund University.
  5. Sonderegger, Petra & Täube, Florian, 2010. "Cluster life cycle and diaspora effects: Evidence from the Indian IT cluster in Bangalore," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 383-397, December.
  6. Lisa D. Cook & Chaleampong Kongcharoen, 2010. "The Idea Gap in Pink and Black," NBER Working Papers 16331, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Agrawal, Ajay & Kapur, Devesh & McHale, John, 2008. "How do spatial and social proximity influence knowledge flows? Evidence from patent data," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 258-269, September.
  8. Agrawal, Ajay & Kapur, Devesh & McHale, John & Oettl, Alexander, 2011. "Brain drain or brain bank? The impact of skilled emigration on poor-country innovation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 43-55, January.
  9. Simon Condliffe & William Latham & Christian Le Bas & Frédéric Miribel, 2008. "Agglomeration Economies within IT-Producing and IT-Consuming Industries in U.S. Regions," Working Papers 08-24, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.

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