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Are elite universities losing their competitive edge?

  • Communication
  • Economics


We study the location-specific component of research productivity for economics and finance faculty over the last three decades. We find that there was a positive effect of being affiliated with a top 25 university in the 1970s; this effect weakened in the 1980s and disappeared in the 1990s. The decline in elite university fixed effect is due to the reduced importance of physical access to productive research colleagues, which in turn seems due to innovations in communication technology. One implication is that knowledge-based organizations should find it more difficult to capture rents vis-à-vis workers. We find that faculty salaries increased the most where the estimated spillover dropped the most. Despite the loss in local spillovers, elite universities still enjoy an edge in average productivity because of agglomeration of top researchers in prestigious institutions with high long-term research reputations.

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