Department of Economics

Causes, Consequences and Dynamics of ‘Complex’ Distributions of Technological Activities

Department of Economics

University of Delaware

Working Paper #2010-02

Causes, Consequences and Dynamics of ‘Complex’ Distributions of Technological Activities: The Case of Prolific Inventors

William Latham and Christian Le Bas

ABSTRACT

We provide a framework for understanding the causes and consequences of the observed shapes of the distributions of individual inventors' productivities. We review a literature that begins with Lotka's (1926) "law" regarding the persistence of variability in scientific productivity at any point in time and also over time. We discuss use of the "power law" and the Pareto distribution to describe and explain the empirical distributions. We focus on the upper parts of the frequency distributions for inventors exploring the processes underlying knowledge accumulation at the individual level, including its features, characteristics, and structural trends. Finally we explore the specific processes by which these individuals create, maintain, and increase knowledge accumulation as their careers evolve.

JEL Codes: B-52, O-31, O-34

Keywords: Patents, Inventors, Prolific, Lotka

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