Did Cheaper Flights Change the Direction of Science?
30 Pages Posted: 4 May 2016
Date Written: April 2016
We test how a reduction in travel cost affects the rate and direction of scientific research. Using a fine-grained, scientist-level dataset within chemistry (1991-2012), we find that after Southwest Airlines enters a new route, scientific collaboration increases by 50%, an effect that is magnified when weighting output by quality. The benefits from the lower fares, however, are not uniform across scientist types: younger scientists and scientists that are more productive than their local peers respond the most. Thus, cheaper flights, by reducing frictions otherwise induced by geography and allowing for additional face-to-face interactions, seem to enable better matches over distance.
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