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The presence of research universities has been hypothesized to have a positive effect on the local economy. One means of assessing this relationship is to compare the number of research universities to measures of prosperity, which are among the ultimate outcomes of economic development.
The attached Excel dataset provides two measures of prosperity -- per capita personal income and earnings per employee -- and the number of research universities in each of the 940 metropolitan and micropolitan areas in the United States. The prosperity measures are presented annually from 1969 through 2007, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Research universities were defined in 2005 by the Carnegie Foundation.
A preliminary correlation analysis suggests that the presence of research universities is significantly, though weakly, correlated with measures of prosperity. The Carnegie Foundation category of research universities with very high research activity has slightly higher correlations to per capita personal income and earnings per employee. A moderately strong correlation exists in larger metropolitan areas. However, no correlation exists with metro/micro areas with a population of less than 250,000, which account for 81 percent of the 940 metro/micro areas.
Because of the many factors affecting prosperity, a much more in-depth analysis is needed to provide insight into the relative importance of the presence of research universities.