PhD dissertation: The dynamics of agglomeration economies and channels of economic change


Since the 1980s spatial inequality within countries has been increasing. This thesis focuses in three parts on how certain agglomeration advantages of cities have changed and why.

1) According to Marshall (1890) agglomeration economies consist of local advantages in exchanging products, employees, and ideas. Using historical U.S. data it is shown that since 1970 the local exchange of ideas has become more relevant whereas exchanging products and employees has become less relevant. These changes are influenced by the rise of computer technology and trade competition that make industries more knowledge-intensive.

2) The division of labour as agglomeration advantage is more relevant for complex activities where individuals are specialised in more narrow fields and need face-to-face contact to collaborate in larger networks. Results confirm that more complex jobs, industries, patents, and publications are more strongly concentrated in larger cities. U.S. patent data shows that since 1830 the concentration of complex activities in large cities has increased over time, in particular during technological revolutions.

3) Cities also have advantages in developing future activities. Using the same patent data, it is shown that cities with a larger variety in technological activities are better able to develop new activities during crises and technological revolutions.

All in all, this thesis offers insights why larger more innovative cities grow faster: 1, they have more knowledge-oriented agglomeration advantages; 2, they accommodate the growing division of labour of complex activities; 3, they reinvent themselves more easily. The technological computer revolution and globalisation are instrumental to understand spatial inequality.

Start date and time
End date and time
Utrecht University Hall, Domplein 29
PhD candidate
Mathieu Steijn
The dynamics of agglomeration economies and channels of economic change
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. Dr. R.A. Boschma
Prof. Dr. F.G. van Oort
Dr. P.M.A. Balland
Dr. H. Koster