Gone but not Forgotten: Knowledge Flows, Labor Mobility, and Enduring Social Relationships

34 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2007

See all articles by Ajay Agrawal

Ajay Agrawal

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Iain M. Cockburn

Boston University Questrom School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

John McHale

Smith School of Business

Abstract

We examine the role of social relationships in facilitating knowledge flows by estimating the flow premium captured by a mobile inventor's previous location. Once an inventor has moved, they are gone - but are they forgotten? We find that knowledge flows to an inventor's prior location are approximately 50% greater than if they had never lived there, suggesting that social relationships, not just physical proximity, are important for determining flow patterns. Furthermore, we find that a large portion of this social effect is mediated by institutional links; however, this is not the result of corporate knowledge management systems but rather of personal relationships formed through co-location within an institutional context that endure over time, space, and organizational boundaries. Moreover, we find the effect is nearly twice as large for knowledge flows across as compared to within fields, suggesting that co-location may substitute for communities of practice in determining flow patterns.

Keywords: knowledge flows, social relationships, labor mobility, patent citations

JEL Classification: F22, O31, R12, R23

Suggested Citation

Agrawal, Ajay and Cockburn, Iain M. and McHale, John, Gone but not Forgotten: Knowledge Flows, Labor Mobility, and Enduring Social Relationships. Journal of Economic Geography, Vol. 6, pp. 571-591, September 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=982665

Ajay Agrawal (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Iain M. Cockburn

Boston University Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA MA 02215
United States
617-353-3775 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

John McHale

Smith School of Business ( email )

99 University Avenue
Goodes Hall
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6
Canada

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