This paper provides new causal evidence of the impact of improvements in air travel during the beginning of the Jet Age on the creation and diffusion of knowledge. We digitize airlines' historical flight schedules and construct a novel data set of the flight network in the United States. Between 1951 and 1966, travel time between locations more than 2,000km apart decreased on average by 41%. The reduction in travel time explains 33% of the increase in knowledge diffusion as measured by patent citations. The increase in knowledge diffusion further caused an increase in the creation of new knowledge. The results provide evidence that jet airplanes led to innovation convergence across locations and contributed to the shift in innovation activity towards the South and the West of the United States.
Best paper award RIEF conference 2021.