The Principle of Relatedness

Conference paper
Part of the Springer Proceedings in Complexity book series (SPCOM)


The idea that skills, technology, and knowledge, are spatially concentrated, has a long academic tradition. Yet, only recently this hypothesis has been empirically formalized and corroborated at multiple spatial scales, for different economic activities, and for a diversity of institutional regimes. The new synthesis is an empirical principle describing the probability that a region enters—or exits—an economic activity as a function of the number of related activities present in that location. In this paper we summarize some of the recent empirical evidence that has generalized the principle of relatedness to a fact describing the entry and exit of products, industries, occupations, and technologies, at the national, regional, and metropolitan scales. We conclude by describing some of the policy implications and future avenues of research implied by this robust empirical principle.


Economic complexity Relatedness Economic geography 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Collective Learning Group, the MIT Media LabMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human Geography and PlanningUtrecht UniversityUtrechtNetherlands
  3. 3.Business SchoolUniversity of StavangerStavangerNorway
  4. 4.MIT Sloan School of ManagementCambridgeUSA
  5. 5.Department of Public PolicyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  6. 6.Copernicus Institute of Sustainable DevelopmentUtrecht UniversityUtrechtNetherlands
  7. 7.Department of EconomicsHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  8. 8.National Bureau of Economic ResearchCambridgeUSA
  9. 9.College of Urban and Environmental SciencesPeking UniversityBeijingChina
  10. 10.Spatial Dynamics Lab and School of Architecture Planning and Environmental PolicyUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  11. 11.Center for International DevelopmentHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  12. 12.Department of Geography and Department of StatisticsUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  13. 13.Department of Urban Studies and PlanningMITCambridgeUSA
  14. 14.School of Civil EngineeringTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

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