DP11252 | Did Cheaper Flights Change the Direction of Science?

Publication Date


JEL Code(s)


Programme Area(s)


We test how a reduction in travel cost aff ects the rate and direction of scientifi c research. Using a fi ne-grained, scientist-level dataset within chemistry (1991-2012), we fi nd that after Southwest Airlines enters a new route, scientifi c collaboration increases by 50%, an eff ect that is magnifi ed when weighting output by quality. The bene fits from the lower fares, however, are not uniform across scientist types: younger scientists and scientists that are more productive than their local peers respond the most. Thus, cheaper flights, by reducing frictions otherwise induced by geography and allowing for additional face-to-face interactions, seem to enable better matches over distance.