Do Universities Generate Agglomeration Spillovers? Evidence from Endowment Value Shocks

Shawn Kantor
University of California, Merced
NBER
TIAA-CREF Institute Fellow

Alexander Whalley
University of California, Merced
NBER

February 2010 | Issue # 96

In this paper we quantify the extent and magnitude of agglomeration spillovers from a formal institution whose sole mission is the creation and dissemination of knowledge – the research university. We use the fact that universities follow a fixed endowment spending policy based on the market value of their endowments to identify the causal effect of the density of university activity on labor income in the non-education sector in large urban counties. Our instrument for university expenditures is based on the interaction between each university’s initial endowment level at the start of the study period and the variation in stock market shocks over the course of the study period. We find modest but statistically significant spillover effects of university activity. The estimates indicate that a 10% increase in higher education spending increases local non-education sector labor income by about 0.5%. As the implied elasticity is no larger than what previous work finds for agglomeration spillovers arising form local economic activity in general, university activity does not appear to make a place any more productive than other forms of economic activity. We do find, however, that the magnitude of the spillover is significantly larger for firms that are technologically closer to universities in terms of citing patents generated by universities in their own patents and sharing a labor market with higher education.

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