"The Geography of Innovation in the U.S.: A Tale of 280 Cities"

March 6, 2007Duke Law News

Dr. Robert Hunt, Senior Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia: "The Geography of Innovation in the U.S. - A Tale of 280 Cities"

Date: Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Time: 12:15 p.m.
Location: Duke Law School, Room 3037


In the U.S. inventions (as imperfectly measured through patents) are an urban phenomenon. Why is invention concentrated in cities? Why are some cities more innovative than others? This talk describes some findings from Dr. Hunt's work with Jerry Carlino and Satyajit Chatterjee. They demonstrate the importance of many intuitive factors including: local human capital; local investments in private, academic, and government R&D; and the historical mix of local industries and technology. But they also present other, less obvious, results. For example, larger cities are generally more innovative, but the optimal city size is modest--about the size of Raleigh Durham. Dense labor markets (jobs per square mile) are also positively related to innovative productivity. This fact may be due to more efficient matching between workers and firms in thick markets or, more generally, some form of knowledge spillover between firms. Finally, they find that cities where the average firm size is smaller (and presumably younger) are also more innovative. This suggests that new business formation may be a key driver of innovative productivity in U.S. cities.

Dr. Hunt is a Senior Economist with the Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. His fields of interest include innovation & intellectual property, economic geography, and consumer payments & finance. His recent articles include "Matching and Learning in Cities: Urban Density and the Rate of Invention" (with Gerald Carlino and Satyajit Chatterjee, forthcoming in the Journal of Urban Economics), "An Empirical Look at Software Patents" (with James Bessen, forthcoming in the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy), and "When do More Patents Reduce R&D?" (American Economic Review, Papers & Proceedings, Vol. 96 (2006): 87-91).
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