Journal of Urban Economics, January 2021
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 office relocations as exogenous variation in the commuting distance of inventors at the firms. 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 patents per inventor–firm pair per year and an even greater 7% decrease in patent quality. The highest-performing inventors suffer more from increased commuting distance. We discuss the implications of our findings in the light of recent trends around telecommuting and remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic.