How do universities contribute to employment growth? The role of human capital and knowledge bases

The aim of this paper is to analyse whether employment growth is faster in regions housing a university compared to non-university regions. We argue that universities per se are less likely to trigger externalities that facilitate employment growth. Instead, we propose that it depends on the concentration of different skills in that particular region. This is analysed by running a number of ordinary least squares regressions, based on official data on a municipal level from Statistics Sweden, on how concentrations of human capital, analytic, synthetic and symbolic knowledge bases in Swedish university regions influence employment growth in 2002–2008. The results indicate that the presence of universities per se does not influence employment growth. However, the findings suggest that university regions with high concentrations of human capital and, in particular, with employees characterized by the synthetic knowledge base, show higher growth rates. This implies that the influence of universities on employment is greatest in regions with high concentrations of skills able to apply the knowledge created in universities. Consequently, the regional composition of skills needs to match the knowledge produced by universities for significant university-induced spillovers to occur.