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Why do some economic activities agglomerate more than others? And, why does the agglomeration of some economic activities continue to increase despite recent developments in communication and transportation technologies? In this paper, we present evidence that complex economic activities concentrate more in large cities. We find this to be true for technologies, scientific publications, industries, and occupations. Using historical patent data, we show that the urban concentration of complex economic activities has been continuously increasing since 1850. These findings suggest that the increasing urban concentration of jobs and innovation might be a consequence of the growing complexity of the economy.


About Pierre-Alexandre Balland

I am an Assistant Professor of Economic Geography at Utrecht University, Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Media Lab), and Fellow at the Center for Complex Systems Studies.

I am an economist by training, and I try to understand why some parts of the world are rich, other poor, and what we can do about it. On a more applied side, I work with policymakers and companies to solve real-world problems using network analysis and complex systems thinking.

On this website, you'll find data, codes, journal articles, and news about my team and my research.​

Pierre-Alexandre Balland

Utrecht University



Ciudad Politécnica de la Innovación
Edificio 8E, Acceso J, Planta 3ª (Salón de actos. Cubo Amarillo)
Universitat Politècnica de València | Camino de Vera s/n