From Florence to San Francisco: Good Institutions Attract Creative PeopleGUIDO TABELLINI DESCRIBES THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CITIES AND INTELLECTUAL TALENT FROM THE NINTH TO THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
Baghdad during the Islamic golden age, Florence in the Renaissance period, early 20th century Vienna, and more recently, the San Francisco Bay Area are all examples of clusters of creativity and innovation. Guido Tabellini (Department of Economics) and Michel Serafinelli investigated the determinants of these agglomerations.
In Creativity over Time and Space, they matched historical data on institutions and populations of European cities over 5,000 residents with data on 21,906 notable individuals in different creative endeavors (arts, humanities, science, business) who were born in Europe between the 11th and the 19th century (source: Freebase.com and Wikipedia).
“Given that talent is evenly distributed throughout time and space, the presence of a large number of creative people shows an environment that is more likely to capture innovation and creativity”, Guido Tabellini says. The authors matched the number of famous people born in a city and the number of famous immigrants (per 1000 inhabitants) with a historical data set on local institutions. They showed that births of creative people and famous immigrants are spatially more concentrated than population. It means that these talented people were not born necessarily in big cities. Moreover, creative clusters are such in many disciplines. In addition, births and immigration display persistence: cities that are at the height of creativity in one century retain an advantage in the following century.
Finally, surprisingly enough, “local prosperity, measured by population and wage growth, does not play a crucial role in the formation of hubs of creative talent. It is the other way round: becoming a creative cluster contributes to economic growth. The effect of local political institutions account for the agglomeration of creative people. The emergence of autonomous cities that protected economic and political freedoms and that also had forms of representative democracy, albeit limited, facilitated the attraction and production of creative and innovative talent”.
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