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. Cycles of Regional Innovative Growth. Revise and resubmit.
    • Abstract: For academics and policymakers invested in regional economic development, two pertinent questions are how innovative city-regions rise and whether it is inevitable that innovative city-regions will fall. Using data from 8 million patents granted to U.S.-based inventors between 1850 and 2000, this study describes a general process that city-regions undergo as innovation begins, expands, declines, and (occasionally) resurges in regions. The results of the study show that inventors experiment with a small number of promising, diverse, and non-local ideas in the years before innovation in their home regions begins to grow, that inventors build on early locally-introduced ideas as innovation in their home regions expands, and that inventors experiment with relatively homogeneous sets of ideas shortly before innovation in their home regions declines. The results also show that declining regions rarely experience a second wave of local innovative growth. However, resurgences of innovation in the few regions that do experience second waves can be anticipated by changes in the knowledge sourcing strategies of the local inventors. In particular, inventors experiment with promising, diverse, and non-local ideas in the years leading up to second cycles of regional innovative growth; the same types of sources they experiment with in the years leading up to the first cycles.
  • Esposito, C., Leamer, E., and Nickelsburg, J. Who Paid Los Angeles’ Minimum Wage? A Side-by-Side Minimum Wage Experiment in Los Angeles County. Under peer review.
    • 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.
  • Esposito, C. The Macro-Geography of Breakthrough Innovation in the United States over the 20th Century. Under peer review.
    • Abstract: Over the 20th century, the 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 changes. At the start of the 20th century, breakthrough innovation was concentrated in populous and knowledge-diverse metropolitan areas. By the 1930s, breakthroughs were created less frequently across the entire country and so their invention had a less distinct geography. The substantial creation of breakthroughs resumed in the 1960s and was once their invention was concentrated in large and knowledge metropolitan areas. However, during the latter part of the century the invention of breakthroughs also frequently involved long-distance collaborations between inventors. In this paper, I document these historical changes to the geography of breakthrough innovation and propose a model to explain why they occurred. The model suggests that the geography of breakthroughs is established by four factors: (1) the prevailing knowledge intensity of breakthrough inventions, (2) the distance-based frictions incurred by technologies used for collaboration, (3) the distance-based frictions incurred by the technologies used for knowledge-sourcing, and (4) the disruptiveness of the regime of technological change. I generate support for the model, and conclude the paper by discussing lessons that the 20th century’s geography of breakthrough innovation provide for anticipating possible futures for the geography of innovation in the 21st century, including in the years beyond COVID-19.

In Preparation

  • 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: The speed at which new ideas are created and old ideas become obsolete shapes how the economy organizes for innovation. We demonstrate this relationship by documenting changes in the returns that U.S. patent inventors received from experience and collaboration before and after the speed of knowledge accelerated in the 1920s. We find that the returns to experience, measured by the change in the likelihood that inventors create high-impact patent as their careers progress, were insignificant before the 1920s but negative thereafter, while the returns to collaboration, measured as the increase in the likelihood that inventors collaborating in larger teams will create a high-impact patent, were insignificant before the 1920s but positive thereafter. The panel structure of our dataset allows us to rule out the possibility that these results are driven by selection effects. We develop a model to interpret the findings. In the model, inventors mobilize knowledge through two mechanisms: they accumulate knowledge over time through experiential learning, and they pool together collective knowledge by forming teams. The returns to these two mechanisms depend on the speed of knowledge: when knowledge is advancing quickly, inventors are not able to accumulate experience fast enough to keep up with the new ideas that are being introduced, and so they collaborate instead. To test the model, we examine how the returns to experience and collaboration vary across knowledge fields that are advancing at different rates. We find that starting in the 1920s (a) the average level of experience inventors decreased in fast-advancing knowledge fields, (b) the returns to experience became more negative in fast-advancing fields, (c) the average size of inventor teams grew in fast-advancing fields, and (d) the returns to team size increased in fast-advancing fields.
  • 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.