Internet Reduces Elite Universities’ Competitive Edge

With professors spending so much time blogging for no payment, universities might wonder whether this detracts from their value.  Although there is no evidence of a direct link between blogging and publishing productivity, a new study* by E. Han Kim and Adair Morse, of the University of Michigan, and Luigi Zingales, of the University of Chicago, shows that the internet’s ability to spread knowledge beyond university classrooms has diminished the competitive edge that elite schools once held.

Top universities once benefited from having clusters of star professors.  The study showed that during the 1970s, an economics professor from a random university, outside the top 25 programmes, would double his research productivity by moving to Harvard.  The strong relationship between individual output and that of one’s colleagues weakened in the 1980s, and vanished by the end of the 1990s.

The faster flow of information and the waning importance of location—which blogs exemplify—have made it easier for economists from any university to have access to the best brains in their field.  That anyone with an internet connection can sit in on a virtual lecture from Mr DeLong means that his ideas move freely beyond the boundaries of Berkeley, creating a welfare gain for professors and the public.  

For the full story, see:

"FINANCE & ECONOMICS: Economists’ blogs; The invisible hand on the keyboard; Why do economists spend valuable time blogging?"  The Economist 380, no. 8489 (Aug. 3, 2006):  67. 


The full reference to the paper by Kim et al, is:

* “Are Elite Universities Losing Their Competitive Edge?” by E. Han Kim, Adair Morse and Luigi Zingales. NBER working paper 12245, May 2006.

(Thanks to Carolyn Diamond for giving me a copy of the article from The Economist.) 


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