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Technology and Industrial Agglomeration: Evidence from Computer Usage

Although the association between industrial agglomeration and productivity has been widely examined and documented, little work has explored the possibility that these ‘external’ productivity shifts are the product of more advanced technologies. This paper offers a look at this hypothesis using data on individual-level computer usage across a sample of U.S. metropolitan areas over the years 1984, 1989, 1993, and 1997. The results indicate that, for a wide array of industries at the two-, three-, and four-digit SIC level, an industry’s scale within a metropolitan area is positively associated with the frequency of computer use by its workers. However, in spite of these observable differences in workplace technology, I also find that estimated localization effects on wages are largely not explained by computer usage. Even after controlling for computer use, there remain significant own-industry scale effects in labor earnings.

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