The gravity of knowledge

Wolfgang Keller, Stephen Ross Yeaple

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

79 Scopus citations


We analyze the international operations of multinational firms to measure the spatial barriers to transferring knowledge. We model firms that can transfer bits of knowledge to their foreign affiliates in either embodied (traded intermediates) or disembodied form (direct communication). The model shows how knowledge transfer costs can be inferred from multinationals' operations. We use firm-level data on the trade and sales of US multinationals to confirm the model's predictions. Disembodied knowledge transfer costs not only make the standard multinational firm model consistent with the fact that affiliate sales fall in distance but quantitatively accounts for much of the gravity in multinational activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1414-1444
Number of pages31
JournalAmerican Economic Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2013


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics

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