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

Author

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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Ajay Agrawal & Devesh Kapur & John McHale, 2007. "Birds of a Feather - Better Together? Exploring the Optimal Spatial Distribution of Ethnic Inventors," NBER Working Papers 12823, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12823
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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    3. 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.
    4. Ramana Nanda & Tarun Khanna, 2010. "Diasporas and Domestic Entrepreneurs: Evidence from the Indian Software Industry," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(4), pages 991-1012, December.
    5. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 71-102, October.
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    7. Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano & Giovanni Peri, 2016. "The economic value of cultural diversity: evidence from US cities," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: The Economics of International Migration, chapter 7, pages 229-264 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    8. 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.
    9. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2003. "Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2028, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    10. Olav Sorenson & Jan W. Rivkin & Lee Fleming, 2010. "Complexity, Networks and Knowledge Flows," Chapters,in: The Handbook of Evolutionary Economic Geography, chapter 15 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. 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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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Vitor Trindade & Johannes Moenius, 2007. "Networks, Standards and Intellectual Property Rights," Working Papers 0705, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
    2. William R. Kerr & William F. Lincoln, 2010. "The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and U.S. Ethnic Invention," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(3), pages 473-508, July.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Bengtsson, Ola & Hsu, David H., 2015. "Ethnic matching in the U.S. venture capital market," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 338-354.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Lisa D. Cook & Chaleampong Kongcharoen, 2010. "The Idea Gap in Pink and Black," NBER Working Papers 16331, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Yukiko Murakami, 2014. "Influences of return migration on international collaborative research networks: cases of Japanese scientists returning from the US," The Journal of Technology Transfer, Springer, vol. 39(4), pages 616-634, August.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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