Geographical patterns in US inventive activity 1977-1998: The "regional inversion" was underestimated

Carolina Castaldi*, Bart Los

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Towards the end of the previous century, the geography of US inventive activity changed drastically. The old hotbeds of invention (the Northeast and Midwest) lost much of their prominence, and rates of invention in Western states grew considerably. In this paper, we argue that this well-known "regional inversion" has been underestimated. We arrive at this conclusion by addressing an important concern regarding the use of raw patent counts in the previous literature: raw patent counts do not tell much about inventive performance, since the importance of patents in terms of their impact on future technological and economic developments varies much. We focus on "superstar" patents, which are disproportionally important. We identify these employing a statistical regularity in citation patterns. We find that the West did not only outpace the Northeast and Midwest in the numbers of patents produced, but also specialized much more in patents that "really matter".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1187-1197
Number of pages11
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Sep-2017


  • Geography of invention
  • Regional inversion
  • Superstar inventions
  • United States of America

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