DP11252 Did Cheaper Flights Change the Direction of Science?
We test how a reduction in travel cost affects the rate and direction of scientific
research. Using a fine-grained, scientist-level dataset within chemistry (1991-2012), we
find that after Southwest Airlines enters a new route, scientific collaboration increases
by 50%, an effect that is magnified when weighting output by quality. The benefits
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.