, Volume 96, Issue 3, pp 819-828

First online:

Scaling of patenting with urban population size: evidence from global metropolitan areas

  • J. LoboAffiliated withArizona State University Email author 
  • , D. StrumskyAffiliated withUniversity of North Carolina-Charlotte
  • , J. RothwellAffiliated withThe Brookings Institution

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Larger agglomerations of individuals create a social environment can sustain a larger repertoire of intellectual capabilities, thereby facilitating the creation and recombination of ideas, and increasing the likelihood that interactions among individuals will occur through which new ideas are generated and shared. Relatedly, cities have long been the privileged setting for invention and innovation. These two phenomena are brought together in the superlinear scaling relationship whereby urban inventive output (measured through patenting) increases more than proportionally with increasing population size. We revisit the relationship between urban population size and patenting using data for a global set of metropolitan areas in the OECD and show, for the first time, that the superlinear scaling between patenting and population size observed for US metropolitan areas holds for urban areas across a variety of urban and economic systems. In fact the scaling relationships established for the US metropolitan system and for the global metropolitan system are remarkably similar.


Urban scaling Patenting Global metropolitan areas Superlinearity