Externalities in Knowledge Production: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment
49 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2019 Last revised: 21 Aug 2021
Date Written: August 11, 2021
Are there positive or negative externalities in knowledge production? We analyze whether current contributions to knowledge production increase or decrease the future growth of knowledge. To assess this, we use a randomized field experiment that added content to some pages in Wikipedia while leaving similar pages unchanged. We compare subsequent content growth over the next four years between the treatment and control groups. Our estimates allow us to rule out effects on four-year growth of content length larger than twelve percent. We can also rule out effects on four-year growth of content quality larger than four points, which is less than one-fifth of the size of the treatment itself. The treatment increased editing activity in the first two years, but most of these edits only modified the text added by the treatment. Our results have implications for information seeding and incentivizing contributions. They imply that additional content may inspire future contributions in the short- and medium-term but do not generate large externalities in the long term.
Keywords: knowledge accumulation, user-generated content, Wikipedia, public goods provision, field experiment
JEL Classification: L17, L86, C93
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