Details on article

Id 202
Author Serafinelli, M., ; Tabellini, G.,
Title Creativity Over Time and Space

Serafinelli, M., Tabellini, G. (2017). Creativity over time and space. CEPR discussion paper no. DP12365.

Keywords Innovation; Agglomeration; Political institutions; Immigration; Gravity
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Abstract Creativity is often highly concentrated in time and space, and across different domains. What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? In this paper we match data on thousands of notable individuals born in Europe between the XIth and the XIXth century with historical data on city institutions and population. Our main outcome of interest is the number of famous creatives (scaled to local population) born in a city during a century, but we also look at famous immigrants (based on location of death). We first document several stylized facts: famous births and immigrants are spatially concentrated and clustered across disciplines, creative clusters are persistent but less than population, and spatial mobility has remained stable over the centuries. Next, we show that the emergence of city institutions protecting economic and political freedoms and promoting local autonomy facilitates the attraction and production of creative talent.

Metodology Authors analyze data on European creative elites born in the XI-XIX centuries. They exploit information on the dates and location of birth and death of notable individuals in different creative endeavours (arts, humanities, science and business) throughout Europe. The source for these data is, a large data base owned by Google and coded by Schich et al. (2014), that stores information from a variety of publicly editable sources, most notably Wikipedia. After integrating these individual data with additional information scraped from the internet, the authors match them with a historical data set on European cities and local institutions put together by Bairoch et al. (1988) and Bosker et al. (2013). The unit of observation is thus a city in a particular century between the XI and XIX centuries. The main variable of interest is the number of famous creatives (scaled to local population) born in a city during a century, but they also look at famous immigrants (based on location of death).

Findings The authors found out that institutions promoting local autonomy and protecting economic and political freedoms encourage the production and attraction of creative talent. The effects are quantitatively large. Becoming a Commune is associated with an increase in the births of famous people of about 40% relative to the average, while the attraction of famous immigrants almost doubles in size upon becoming a Commune. Overall, authors' estimates strongly suggest that inclusive local institutions and an open environment facilitate the attraction and production of upper-tail human capital in creative occupations. The authors also explored the mechanisms through which Communal institutions favor the production and accumulation of creative talent. Several answers are suggested by historical examples provided in the text. First, the protection of personal and economic freedoms and an inclusive environment changed the local culture, making it more receptive to innovations and new ideas, enhancing the importance of the common good over particularistic interests, and fostering the appreciation of individual achievements in creative endeavors. Second, the new institutions also changed incentives, through a more meritocratic and less rigid social environment, but also by encouraging works of art and innovations that would enhance the prestige of the city. The Italian Renaissance period exemplifies these two mechanisms. Third, free cities attracted talented and creative individuals who escaped censorship and persecution elsewhere, and this created role models and facilitated social learning, breeding new generations of innovators. Fourth, the political priority given to the protection of the interests of merchants facilitated the emergence of market infrastructures and exchange networks that could also be exploited for creating a market for works of art. These mechanisms are not mutually exclusive. Discriminating their relative importance and understanding how they operate in different circumstances is an important task for future research, also to assess the external validity of these findings for modern economic development.
Open Access YES
Search Database SSRN
Technique Document analysis; Desk research; Statistical analysis
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