Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Time for me to leave Harvard?

In a new paper, economists E. Han Kim, Adair Morse, and Luigi Zingales ask, "Are Elite Universities Losing Their Competitive Edge?" Their answer: Yes.

Here is the abstract:

We study the location-specific component in research productivity of economics and finance faculty who have ever been affiliated with the top 25 universities in the last three decades. We find that there was a positive effect of being affiliated with an elite university in the 1970s; this effect weakened in the 1980s and disappeared in the 1990s.We decompose this university fixed effect and find that its decline is due to the reduced importance of physical access to productive research colleagues. We also find that salaries increased the most where the estimated externality dropped the most, consistent with the hypothesis that the de-localization of this externality makes it more difficult for universities to appropriate any rent. Our results shed some light on the potential effects of the internet revolution on knowledge-based industries.
I doubt that the competitive edge has completely disappeared. From my experience, there are substantial spillovers from having good colleagues and students. But I have no doubt that the internet has reduced the benefit of being at a top school by making information about the state of the art more widely accessible.