Commuting and Innovation: Are Closer Inventors More Productive?

Hong Yu Xiao, Business Economics and Public Policy, The Wharton School; Andy Wu, Harvard Business School; and Jaeho Kim, Harvard Business School

Abstract: We estimate the causal effect of workplace–home commuting distance on inventor productivity. We construct a novel panel of U.S. inventors with precisely measured workplace–home distances and inventor-level productivity. Our identification strategy exploits firm relocations as exogenous variations in the commuting distance of the firm’s inventors. We find a significant negative effect from commuting distance on inventor productivity: every 10 km increase in distance is associated with a 5% decrease in patent counts per inventor–firm pair per year and an even greater 7% decrease in patent quality. The highest-performing inventors suffer the greatest from increased commuting distance.

Read the full working paper here (PDF).

Michelle Eckert is Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Mack Institute, where she works to engage students, researchers, and corporate partners in opportunities for collaboration. Michelle received her B.A. in Art from Valparaiso University in 2007. Her background includes two AmeriCorps terms of service working to teach mathematics, computer literacy, and job readiness skills to out-of-school youth in Philadelphia, focusing particularly on promoting access to post-secondary education.