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).