Published Articles

  • Esposito, C., Rigby, D. 2019. Buzz and Pipelines: The Costs and Benefits of Local and Non-Local Interaction. Journal of Economic Geography 19 (3). 753-773. [PDF]   [Article]

— Awarded the 2019 UCLA Geography Graduate Student Publication Award.

  • Meyer, W., Esposito, C. 2014. Burgess and Hoyt in L.A.: Testing the Chicago Models in the Automobile-Age American City. Urban Geography 36 (2). [Article]
  • Meyer, W, Esposito, C. 2014. Residential Patterns in the Pre-Automobile American City. Geographical Review 104 (3). [Article]

Under Peer Review

  • Esposito, C. The Emergence of Knowledge Production in New Places. [Preprint]. Revise and resubmit.

Working Papers

  • Esposito, C., Leamer, E., and Nickelsburg, J. Who Paid Los Angeles’ Minimum Wage? A Side-by-Side Minimum Wage Experiment in Los Angeles County. NBER Working Paper #28966.
    • Abstract: In the restaurant industry, the incidence of an increase in the minimum wage may fall on restaurant owners, customers, landlords, and/or employees. We analyze the first two in this study, with implications for the incidence borne by landlords and employees. We exploit a geographical discontinuity in Los Angeles County, where in 2015 the City of Los Angeles passed a minimum wage law and in 2016 the State of California passed a different minimum wage law. This created two minimum wage schedules in the county that remained unequal for over five years. Using a novel data set from a multi-year price survey, our analysis shows that the incidence of Los Angeles City’s higher minimum wage fell on customers in high-income neighborhoods, and on landlords and restaurant owners in low-income neighborhoods. We further show that the mix of responses at restaurants subject to the LA City minimum wage, including price increases, menu changes, and restaurant closures, was affected by proximity to restaurants subject to the lower California State minimum wage. The effect of neighborhood income levels and distance to lower-wage competition has important implications for designing minimum wage policies.

In Preparation

  • Esposito, C. The Macro-Geography of Breakthrough Innovation in the United States over the 20th Century
    • Abstract: Over the 20th century, the macro-geography of breakthrough innovation in the United States – defined as the spatial distribution of the production of patents that are both novel and impactful – underwent three broad transformations. At the start of the 20th century, breakthrough innovation was concentrated in populous metropolitan areas with diverse local stocks of technological knowledge. However, by the 1930s breakthroughs were invented less frequently across the entire country, and consequently, their invention had a less distinct geography. The large-scale creation of breakthroughs resumed in the 1960s. Although breakthrough innovation after the 1960s was strongly concentrated in large and knowledge-diverse metropolitan areas, it also involved frequent long-distance collaborations between inventors. In this paper, I document these historical changes to the macro-geography of breakthrough innovation and advance a stylized model to explain why these changes occurred. The model proposes that the macro-geography of breakthroughs is established by four factors: (1) the prevailing knowledge intensity of breakthrough inventions, (2) the distance-based frictions incurred by collaborative technologies, (3) the distance-based frictions incurred by knowledge-sourcing technologies, and (4) the disruptiveness of the regime of technological change. With respect to these parameters, I provide evidence suggesting that (a) the knowledge-intensity of breakthrough inventions increased over the 20th century, (b) the technologies used to collaborate across distance improved markedly over the 20th century but the technologies used to passively learn across distance did not improve very much during the same time period, and (c) the regime of technological change was disruptive at the beginning and at the end of the 20th century but incremental in the middle of the 20th century. I conclude the paper by discussing lessons that the 20th century’s macro-geography of breakthrough innovation provide for anticipating possible futures for the macro-geography of innovation in the 21st century, including in the years beyond COVID-19.
  • Esposito, C. , and van der Wouden, F. Learning, Fast and Slow: Individual Knowledge, Collective Knowledge, and High-Impact Innovation in the United States between 1836 and 1975
    • Abstract: This paper analyses changes in the returns to experience and collaboration for U.S. inventors of patents between 1836 and 1975. We combine two novel datasets which allow us to trace the careers of inventors, record instances of collaboration, and measure the impact of each patent across a long period of U.S. history. We show that the returns to collaboration, in terms of increasing the impact of inventions, were negligible up until the 1920s after which strong positive returns emerged. Additionally, we show that experience, measured by the number of years elapsed since the beginning of inventors’ patenting careers, has had negative returns since the 1920s. We develop a simple model to interpret these findings. Our model proposes that teams “learn” quickly by pooling together the knowledge of their co-inventors while individual inventors learn slowly through experiential search and discovery. When the knowledge frontier is rapidly expanding, such as in the post-1920s United States, individual inventors are not able to learn quickly enough to keep pace with the new ideas being introduced so collaboration becomes a more viable method to collect and employ knowledge. We validate our model by demonstrating that (a) the returns to experience are most negative in rapidly expanding technological fields, (b) collaboration is most frequent in rapidly expanding fields, (c) the rate of knowledge expansion accelerated across technology fields in the 1920s, and (d) this acceleration was great enough to explain the increase in the returns to collaboration and the decline in the returns to experience.
  • Esposito, C. Preature Deagglomeration: The Burden of Inelastic Housing Supply on the Innovation Economy.
    • Abstract: What types of economic activities deagglomerate from cities when the local housing supply is inelastic? It is well-established that housing prices in cities like San Francisco, Boston, and New York displace certain workers and prohibit the in-migration of others. However, much less is known about how productive economic activities relocate when inelastic housing supply inflates local price levels. In this paper, I show that the spatial responsiveness of economic activity to housing costs depends on the level of maturity and standardization of the sector. In particular, I exploit variation in the maturity level of technologies as recorded on U.S. patent records to show that patent production in new and dynamic technological fields is spatially non-responsive to inelastic housing supply. On the other hand, patent production in older and more mature technological fields relocates to lower-cost locations when housing prices are sufficiently onerous. Because patent production, like most economic activity, benefits from agglomeration economies, the deagglomeration of marginally-mature patent production represents a burden that inelastic housing supply places on the knowledge economy.