Research Projects



Dr. Elisabeth Perlman Analyzes Links Between Transportation and Innovation

Friday, February 17, 2017

By Seva Rodnyansky, Ph.D. Candidate in Urban Planning and Development, USC Price


METRANS and USC Lusk Center for Real Estate co-sponsored a seminar on February 10, 2017 to host Dr. Elisabeth Perlman of the U.S. Census Bureau's Center for Economic Studies. Perlman, who holds a Ph.D. Degree in Economics from Boston University, is broadly interested in U.S economic history and in urban and regional economics. Her presentation, "Dense Enough to Be Brilliant: Patents, Urbanization, and Transportation in Nineteenth Century America," provided both a multi-disciplinary and a mixed method approach to research, fitting in well with the Price School's varied research streams.

Perlman studied whether increased access to transportation in the 19th century increased innovation as measured by relative patent volume. She found some evidence that counties that became connected to the railroad and especially those with lower-cost access to a larger amount of markets experienced increases in innovation activity, controlling for other factors. In addition, Perlman analyzed the speed and diffusion across U.S. counties of newly-minted technical words as written in patents. While these results are only preliminary, they may yield a potentially valuable way to predict the location of industries utilizing new technologies across space and time. 

Perlman's methodological breadth added a mixed-methods component to the presentation. Perlman applied her background in economics to a textual analysis used to glean both patent filing locations, industry types, and new technological words to create her own dataset. She then geocoded these locations in a geographic information system (GIS) and created time-varying output maps. Finally, her depth of knowledge about the patent system, the history of technology, and 19th century U.S. history enabled her to situate her research within a historical time frame of the expansion of the transportation system as well as the second industrial revolution.

(Photo by Elisabeth Perlman)


About the author

Seva Rodnyansky is a third year Ph.D. Candidate in Urban Planning and Development at the Price School of Public Policy. His academic focus is on mobility, neighborhood change, transit-oriented development, and housing supply. Seva's current work explores 1) the effect of rail-transit station openings on household mobility patterns, 2) the trade-off between environmental and housing goals in transit-oriented developments, and 3) the roots of the relative affordability of small and medium multi-family housing. Prior to USC, Seva was a strategy consultant for Booz & Company (now PWC Strategy&), advising Fortune 500 clients in the automotive, transportation, industrial, aerospace, and defense industries. Seva holds a B.A. in Economics, Urban Studies, and Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences from Northwestern University. He can be reached at [email protected].

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