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Which Agglomeration Externalities Matter Most and Why?

Which Agglomeration Externalities Matter Most and Why?

Economist Jacques Poot, Professor of Population Economics at the University of Waikato, spent a semester in 2014/15 working on the relations between migration and travel. He also wrote a meta-analysis of the statistical evidence for agglomeration externalities such as specialization, diversity and competition effects, published in 2016.


This paper revisits the ongoing discussion on the importance of agglomeration externalities – specifically specialization, diversity and competition effects – that may contribute to innovation, productivity and urban employment growth. Previous meta‐analyses suggested that the evidence on agglomeration externalities is strongly context‐specific. Expanding an earlier analysis of 31 articles, we seek to draw in this paper more robust conclusions by means of the statistical evidence for agglomeration externalities presented in 73 scientific articles, all building on the seminal work of Glaeser et al. (1992). Our results confirm that the heterogeneity among studies is huge and can only be partially accounted for by means of an ordered probit analysis. Additionally, some evidence of publication bias is found. We conclude that the conventional lines of inquiry in this literature may now have reached strongly diminishing returns. New lines of inquiry, using rich micro‐level data on firms and workers, dynamic general equilibrium models at the macro level, more attention for spatial and temporal variation in the impacts of agglomeration, and further investigations into the spatial scope of externalities are promising avenues for further research that can enhance our understanding of how agglomeration externalities continue to fuel our increasingly urbanized world.

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