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POID Working Paper

The diffusion of disruptive technologies


We identify novel technologies using textual analysis of patents, job postings, and earnings calls. Our approach enables us to identify and document the diffusion of 29 disruptive technologies across firms and labor markets in the U.S. Five stylized facts emerge from our data. First, the locations where technologies are developed that later disrupt businesses are geographically highly concentrated, even more so than overall patenting. Second, as the technologies mature and the number of new jobs related to them grows, they gradually spread across space. While initial hiring is concentrated in high-skilled jobs, over time the mean skill level in new positions associated with the technologies declines, broadening the types of jobs that adopt a given technology. At the same time, the geographic diffusion of low-skilled positions is significantly faster than higher-skilled ones, so that the locations where initial discoveries were made retain their leading positions among high-paying positions for decades. Finally, these technology hubs are more likely to arise in areas with universities and high skilled labor pools.


Nicholas Bloom, Tarek Alexander Hassan, Aakash Kalyani, Josh Lerner and Ahmed Tahoun

1 September 2021     Paper Number POIDWP016

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This POID Working Paper is published under the Programme on Innovation and Diffusion.