The Annals of Regional Science

, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 423–452 | Cite as

Modeling knowledge networks in economic geography: a discussion of four methods

  • Tom BroekelEmail author
  • Pierre-Alexandre Balland
  • Martijn Burger
  • Frank van Oort
Special Issue Paper


The importance of network structures for the transmission of knowledge and the diffusion of technological change has been recently emphasized in economic geography. Since network structures drive the innovative and economic performance of actors in regional contexts, it is crucial to explain how networks form and evolve over time and how they facilitate inter-organizational learning and knowledge transfer. The analysis of relational dependent variables, however, requires specific statistical procedures. In this paper, we discuss four different models that have been used in economic geography to explain the spatial context of network structures and their dynamics. First, we review gravity models and their recent extensions and modifications to deal with the specific characteristics of networked (individual level) relations. Second, we discuss the quadratic assignment procedure that has been developed in mathematical sociology for diminishing the bias induced by network dependencies. Third, we present exponential random graph models that not only allow dependence between observations, but also model such network dependencies explicitly. Finally, we deal with dynamic networks, by introducing stochastic actor-oriented models. Strengths and weaknesses of the different approach are discussed together with domains of applicability the geography of innovation studies.

JEL Classification

R11 O32 D85 



The authors would like to thank two anonymous referees and Tom Snijders for very helpful comments and suggestions. Of course, all remaining errors are ours.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tom Broekel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Pierre-Alexandre Balland
    • 2
  • Martijn Burger
    • 3
  • Frank van Oort
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Economic and Cultural GeographyLeibniz University of HannoverHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Department of Economic GeographyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Applied EconomicsErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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