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Essays in the spatial economic analysis of social interactions

Diemer, Andreas (2020) Essays in the spatial economic analysis of social interactions. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004191


This thesis examines the role of social interactions in economic geography from several different angles. It draws on and dialogues with literatures in related fields such as spatial and urban economics, regional science, economic sociology, and innovation economics, to explore how the geographical and social spaces are interlinked. The thesis comprises an introduction and three essays, all focused on the United States. The first essay considers the notion of social capital from a territorial perspective and investigates the role of manufacturing decline in its accumulation. It documents a positive relationship between the two, but also highlights significant challenges in the stability and interpretation of this result. The essay thus questions how well the notion of social capital lends itself to measurement and empirical analysis. The second essay uses a direct and broad measure of the social connectedness of regions to examine its role in transferring knowledge across the entire US geography. It uncovers a small yet significant and robust effect of social connection on knowledge flows as proxied by patent citations. The effect matters above and beyond the pre-existing geography of production and the professional networks of inventors. The third and final essay uses US social connectedness data to investigate how plausibly exogenous surges in the local demand for jobs in the oil and gas industry during the ‘fracking boom’ can affect the economy of spatially distant but socially proximate places. Findings support a role for social interaction in the diffusion of local economic shocks. This effect is likely explained by the relocation of transient workers within the industry, providing new aggregate evidence in support of the literature on job information networks. The overriding contribution of this thesis is to underscore with new empirical evidence the importance of social interactions in the spatial distribution of economic activity, not just locally but also over large scale geographies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Andreas Diemer
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD100 Land Use
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Storper, Michael and Iammarino, Simona

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