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Which Peers Matter? The Relative Impacts of Collaborators, Colleagues, and Competitors


  • Kirk B. Doran

    () (Department of Economics, University of Notre Dame)

  • George J. Borjas

    (Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University)


Many economists believe that knowledge production generates positive spillovers among knowledge producers. We argue that spillovers may exist on at least three dimensions (in idea, geographic, and collaboration space), and that the strength or weakness of the spillover effects can vary across these dimensions. Using a unique data set that contains information on all publications of active mathematicians in the former Soviet Union, we examine the impact of a large post-­1992 exodus of Soviet mathematicians on the output of the non-­emigres. We find that a supply shock in the space of ideas (i.e., where the exodus consists of peers who work in similar topics) increases the output of the non-­emigres. However, neither a supply shock in geographic space (i.e., where the émigrés are members of the same university department) nor in collaboration space (i.e., where the emigres consist of coauthors) has a statistically significant effect on the output of a typical mathematician. We find evidence of human capital externalities only if the supply shock in collaboration space involves the loss of high-­quality coauthors. Spillovers, therefore, are most likely to be empirically important and dominate the competitive forces unleashed by a supply shock when high-­quality researchers are directly engaged in the joint production of new knowledge.

Suggested Citation

  • Kirk B. Doran & George J. Borjas, 2013. "Which Peers Matter? The Relative Impacts of Collaborators, Colleagues, and Competitors," Working Papers 021, University of Notre Dame, Department of Economics, revised Mar 2013.
  • Handle: RePEc:nod:wpaper:021

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. George J. Borjas & Kirk B. Doran, 2012. "The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American Mathematicians," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(3), pages 1143-1203.
    2. Sari Pekkala Kerr & William R. Kerr, 2013. "Immigration and Employer Transitions for STEM Workers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 193-197, May.
    3. Chiara Franzoni & Giuseppe Scellato & Paula Stephan, 2012. "The Mover's Advantage: Scientific Performance of Mobile Academics," NBER Working Papers 18577, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Jeffrey Grogger & Gordon H. Hanson, 2013. "Attracting Talent: Location Choices of Foreign-Born PhDs in the US," NBER Working Papers 18780, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:bla:ecinqu:v:55:y:2017:i:3:p:1308-1323 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Pedro Albarrán & Raquel Carrasco & Javier Ruiz-Castillo, 2017. "Are Migrants More Productive Than Stayers? Some Evidence From A Set Of Highly Productive Academic Economists," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 55(3), pages 1308-1323, July.
    3. Francesca Gioia, 2017. "Peer effects on risk behaviour: the importance of group identity," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 20(1), pages 100-129, March.
    4. Bruhin, Adrian & Götte, Lorenz & Haenni, Simon & Jiang, Lingqing, 2014. "Spillovers of Prosocial Motivation: Evidence from an Intervention Study on Blood Donors," IZA Discussion Papers 8738, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Fernanda L. L. de Leon & Ben McQuillin, 2014. "The role of conferences on the pathway to academic impact: Evidence from a natural experiment," Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) 14-08, School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK..
    6. repec:spr:scient:v:104:y:2015:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-015-1625-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Thomas Cornelissen, 2016. "Do social interactions in the workplace lead to productivity spillover among co-workers?," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 314-314, November.
    8. Thomas Bolli & Jörg Schläpfer, 2015. "Job mobility, peer effects, and research productivity in economics," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 104(3), pages 629-650, September.
    9. repec:eee:jeborg:v:145:y:2018:i:c:p:424-434 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Ham, John C. & Weinberg, Bruce A., 2017. "Novelty, Knowledge Spillovers and Innovation: Evidence from Nobel Laureates," GLO Discussion Paper Series 30, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    11. repec:eme:aecozz:s0731-905320160000037016 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Peter Burridge & J. Paul Elhorst & Katarina Zigova, 2016. "Group Interaction in Research and the Use of General Nesting Spatial Models," Advances in Econometrics,in: Spatial Econometrics: Qualitative and Limited Dependent Variables, volume 37, pages 223-258 Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    13. Ajay Agrawal & Avi Goldfarb & Florenta Teodoridis, 2013. "Does Knowledge Accumulation Increase the Returns to Collaboration?," NBER Working Papers 19694, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    JEL classification:

    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor

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