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The Spatial Diffusion of Technology


  • Diego A. Comin
  • Mikhail Dmitriev
  • Esteban Rossi-Hansberg


We study empirically technology diffusion across countries and over time. We find significant evidence that technology diffuses slower to locations that are farther away from adoption leaders. This effect is stronger across rich countries and also when measuring distance along the south-north dimension. A simple theory of human interactions can account for these empirical findings. The theory suggests that the effect of distance should vanish over time, a hypothesis that we confirm in the data, and that distinguishes technology from other flows like goods or investments. We then structurally estimate the model. The parameter governing the frequency of interactions is larger for newer and network-based technologies and for the median technology the frequency of interactions decays by 73% every 1000 Kms. Overall, we document the significant role that geography plays in determining technology diffusion across countries.

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  • Diego A. Comin & Mikhail Dmitriev & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2012. "The Spatial Diffusion of Technology," NBER Working Papers 18534, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18534

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. William R. Kerr & Scott Duke Kominers, 2015. "Agglomerative Forces and Cluster Shapes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 877-899, October.
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    3. Diego Comin & Bart Hobijn & Emilie Rovito, 2006. "Five Facts You Need to Know About Technology Diffusion," NBER Working Papers 11928, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    8. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116.
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    JEL classification:

    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • R0 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General

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