THE JANUS FACE
The paradoxical outcomes of university-centered economic growth
A recent paper by RICHARD FLORIDA and RUBEN GAETANI takes an empirical look at the role of research universities in anchoring local economies and driving economic growth. The paper examines the density of patenting and financial investment within the internal geographies of specific American cities and argues that knowledge agglomeration exacerbates economic, occupational, and spatial segregation.
“Although universities certainly affect national levels of innovation and growth, research has shown that they tend to affect innovation and growth by operating through more localized channels. The roles played by Stanford University in the rise and economic performance of Silicon Valley and of MIT in the Boston-Cambridge ecosystem are cases in point.
Universities constitute a rare, irreproducible asset at the local level. At the same time, it is increasingly clear that the knowledge-economy metros and so-called college towns suffer from relatively high levels of inequality and segregation.”
Set to be released in the October issue of MANAGERIAL & DECISION ECONOMICS, the paper presents a nuanced exploration of agglomeration economies and complicates the use of universities as levers for economic revitalization, job creation, and mutual prosperity.
Link to the working paper.
- As spotlighted in a November newsletter, Lyman Stone discusses national problems with the role of the US higher education system: “The problems we face are: (1) the regional returns to higher education are too localized, (2) the price of higher education is bid up very high, (3) the traditional entrepreneurial player, state governments, is financially strained or unwilling, (4) private entrance is systematically suppressed by unavoidable market features.” Link.
- At CityLab, Richard Florida examined venture-capital invested start-ups and found they disproportionately clustered in metropolitan regions with high-performing universities. Link.
- For a deep dive into the role universities play in economic and spatial development, see Margaret O’Mara’s book on Cold War era “Cities of Knowledge." Link.