Discussion paper

DP11252 Did Cheaper Flights Change the Direction of Science?

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.


Fons-Rosen, C and C Catalini (eds) (2016), “DP11252 Did Cheaper Flights Change the Direction of Science?”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 11252. https://cepr.org/publications/dp11252