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Cognitive Mobility - Labor Market Responses to Supply Shocks in the Space of Ideas

  • Kirk B. Doran


    (Department of Economics, University of Notre Dame)

  • George J. Borjas


    (Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University)

Knowledge producers who are conducting research on a particular set of questions may respond to supply and demand shocks by shifting their resources to a different set of questions. Cognitive mobility measures the transition from one locations in an idea space to another location in that space. This paper examines the cognitive mobility flows unleashed by the influx of a large number of Soviet mathematicians into the United States after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Our analysis exploits the fact that the influx of Soviet mathematicians into the American mathematics community was larger in some fields than in others. The data reveal substantial cognitive mobility in response to the influx, with American mathematicians moving away from, rather than moving to, fields that likely received large numbers of Soviet emigres. It appears that diminishing returns in specific research areas, rather than beneficial human capital spillovers, dominated the cognitive mobility decisions of pre-existing knowledge producers.

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Paper provided by University of Notre Dame, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 019.

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Length: 61 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2012
Date of revision: Nov 2012
Handle: RePEc:nod:wpaper:019
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