Dany Bahar, 13 December 2019

A key influence on the location decisions of multinationals is thought to be the ‘knowledge–distance trade-off’ – how far apart headquarters are from foreign subsidiaries, and the impact this has on ease of communication between them on issues related to management, monitoring, coordination, troubleshooting, and so on. This column argues that it is differences in time zones as much as the transport costs related to physical distance that play an important role in this trade-off. Human interaction is vital for the transfer of tacit knowledge that underpins economic development.

Nina Boberg-Fazlic, Paul Sharp, 01 September 2019

Can immigration point systems identify desirable immigrants? This column investigates the lessons of 19th-century migration from then-poor Denmark to the US. By 1890, Denmark had developed into a world-leading dairy producer. It finds that areas in the US with many Danes before the transformation of Danish agriculture benefited from significant knowledge transfers thereafter, and specialised in high-tech dairying. This provides a cautionary tale for those arguing that desirable migrants can be identified ex ante.

James Anderson, Mario Larch, Yoto Yotov, 30 July 2019

Foreign direct investment has traditionally been viewed as a key driver of prosperity, and modern FDI has also become a vehicle for transferring intangible assets. This column uses a counterfactual experiment based on a hypothetical world with no outward or inward FDI to and from low-income and lower-middle-income countries to examine the effects of FDI on trade, domestic investment, and welfare. World welfare falls by about 6% and all countries lose out, with some poorer countries losing over 50%. World trade falls by 7%, with the losses again unevenly distributed.

Rune Fitjar, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 11 April 2016

Geographic proximity between innovating actors has been shown to facilitate knowledge transfers and spillovers. However, the degree to which these effects are driven by serendipitous encounters has yet to be examined. This column explores this issue for a sample of Norwegian firms. Of the relationships that help firms innovate, fewer than 10% are formed in purely casual circumstances. The results imply that knowledge isn’t so much ‘in the air’; transfers usually result from purposeful search.

Enrico Spolaore, Romain Wacziarg, 27 June 2015

Cultural transmission occurs both vertically – from one generation to the next – and, increasingly in modern times, horizontally – within generations and across populations. Using novel data for 74 countries, this column explores how genetic relatedness between populations affects the transmission of cultural traits. A pattern of positive and significant relationships is found between genetic distance and various measures of cultural distance, including language, religion, values, and norms. This implies that populations that are ancestrally closer face lower barriers to learning new ideas and behaviours from each other.

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