The urban knowledge economy and employment growth: a spatial structural equation modeling approach

  • Frank G. van OortEmail author
  • Johan H. L. Oud
  • Otto Raspe
Open Access
Special Issue Paper


Many European governments have been stimulating their urban economies by focusing on knowledge economy potentials of metropolitan regions, especially R&D-based indicators. We analyze employment growth in terms of conventional determinants—investments, wages, income, and specialization indices of industrial, distribution and business services activities—and three latent knowledge economy components (density of knowledge workers, R&D and innovativeness) for the Netherlands based on a sample of 496 municipalities. We apply a structural equation model (SEM) made up of a measurement model that relates the latent knowledge economy components to their observable indicators and a structural model that estimates the impacts of the determinants on employment growth. In addition to the conventional determinants and the knowledge economy components, the SEM accounts for spatial spillover effects, degree of urbanization and core-periphery dichotomy. The latent variables ‘density of knowledge workers’ and ‘innovativeness’ have significant and strong impacts. Since they are more common in larger than smaller urban agglomerations, we conclude that the impacts of these variables on employment growth are stronger in the former than the latter. The latent variable ‘R&D-intensity’ is not significantly, positively related to urban employment growth. This suggests that policy should emphasize innovation output and knowledge workers density rather than R&D to capture urban growth potentials in the knowledge economy.

JEL Classification

O31 R12 R15 R58 


Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank G. van Oort
    • 1
    Email author
  • Johan H. L. Oud
    • 2
  • Otto Raspe
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Economic GeographyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Radboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Netherlands Environmental Assessment AgencyThe HagueThe Netherlands

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