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U of T research looks at link between innovation and economic segregation of U.S. urban areas

New York City (photo by caruba via Flickr)

A new study co-authored by the University of Toronto’s Ruben Gaetani suggests that innovation is leading to the economic segregation of urban areas in the United States.

The study by Gaetani, an assistant professor in the department of management at U of T Mississauga, and Enrico Berkes of Northwestern University, has a baseline finding “as remarkable as it is disturbing,” writes University Professor Richard Florida of U of T in an article for CityLab, the website he co-founded.

The researchers used sophisticated statistical modelling to compare patent data from 1990 to 2010 with measures of economic segregation, such as income, education, and occupation. They found that the level of patenting – what they call  “innovative intensity” – is responsible for 56 per cent of the variation in economic segregation between cities. In the three decades, about 20 per cent of the increase in economic segregation can be attributed to  innovation intensity.

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“They find that economic segregation has increased considerably more than income inequality over this time frame,” Florida writes.

“A large share of the skyrocketing inequality in America over the past two decades results from the divergence of income between, rather than within, neighborhoods or census tracts,” he adds.

The study suggests that urban economic segregation, defined as inequality across city-regions or neighbourhoods, "accounts for the majority of the widening spatial inequality the United States" – and high-tech innovation is a major reason why.

Read more about the study in Florida’s CityLab story