Academic knowledge and economic growth: are scientific fields all alike
The aim of the paper is to contribute the debate on the accountability of the academic system. To this it grafts the recent advances of the economics of knowledge into the economics of the academic system. The paper elaborates and tests the hypothesis that there are different types of academic knowledge that exert different effects on economic growth. The recent advances of the economics of knowledge enable to appreciate the differences among types of academic knowledge in terms of appropriability, fungibility and cumulability, field of application and with respect to the specificities of the generation process. Building upon these bases, distinctions can be made between knowledge in hard sciences, social sciences, humanities and medical sciences. The hypotheses are tested on OECD data about the numbers of university graduated students in the years 1998-2008 in 16 countries with a simple production function. The results stress the differences in the output elasticity of each discipline and confirm their wide differences in the capability to contribute economic output. The policy implications are important: public support to the academic system, advocated to support economic growth, should not be spread uniformly across academic disciplines but rather focus the academic fields that are better able to contribute economic growth..
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