Defining Clusters of Related Industries

Mercedes Delgado, Michael E. Porter, Scott Stern

NBER Working Paper No. 20375
Issued in August 2014
NBER Program(s):   PR

Clusters are geographic concentrations of industries related by knowledge, skills, inputs, demand, and/or other linkages. A growing body of empirical literature has shown the positive impact of clusters on regional and industry performance, including job creation, patenting, and new business formation. There is an increasing need for cluster-based data to support research, facilitate comparisons of clusters across regions, and support policymakers and practitioners in defining regional strategies. This paper develops a novel clustering algorithm that systematically generates and assesses sets of cluster definitions (i.e., groups of closely related industries). We implement the algorithm using 2009 data for U.S. industries (6-digit NAICS), and propose a new set of benchmark cluster definitions that incorporates measures of inter-industry linkages based on co-location patterns, input-output links, and similarities in labor occupations. We also illustrate the algorithm's ability to compare alternative sets of cluster definitions by evaluating our new set against existing sets in the literature. We find that our proposed set outperforms other methods in capturing a wide range of inter-industry linkages, including grouping industries within the same 3-digit NAICS.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20375

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