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CityLab
Economy

The Paradox of Prosperity at America’s Universities

As they churn out the talent and technology that drive economic growth, universities also shape deepening urban inequality.
There would be no Silicon Valley without Stanford, but major research universities also lead to their fair share of metropolitan problems.
There would be no Silicon Valley without Stanford, but major research universities also lead to their fair share of metropolitan problems.Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Leading research universities have played a central role in America’s dominance of high-tech sector after high-tech sector. From software to biotech, the technology and talent streaming out of these universities have been crucial to the startups that have powered innovation and local economic growth in many regions.

Silicon Valley is unimaginable without Stanford University. The innovation ecosystem of Boston and Cambridge turns on MIT. And research universities have played a key role in reviving cities and neighborhoods hollowed out by crime and deindustrialization. Pittsburgh’s revival, for instance, has been spurred by technologies pioneered at Carnegie Mellon, such as robotics and autonomous vehicles.