Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

Mary Huff Stevenson

Second Advisor

Michael Johnson

Third Advisor

Francoise Carre


Policies aimed at economic development can be judged by two criteria: efficiency and equity. -Policies that result in both greater efficiency and greater equity lead to shared economic prosperity for a region. The innovation economy includes some of the fastest growing industries which generate new wealth in the U.S. Within this context, the life sciences industry has been a prime target for economic development for individual states. This case study examines the economic development agenda in the Massachusetts life sciences industry and whether these efforts result in both sustaining competitive advantage (i.e., continuous innovation that improves productivity and product and service quality) and supporting greater equity - particularly equality of opportunity and a fair distribution of outcomes. In addition to examining how economic development supports sustained competitive advantage, the study focuses on the extent to which equity goals are defined, implemented, and realized by employers and stakeholders in this fast growing sector.

This case study design employs both quantitative and qualitative methods, between 2000 and 2010. I find that the life sciences industries in Massachusetts have sustained competitive advantage with growth and concentration intensifying in the second half of the decade. Growth in the life sciences has benefited the highest skilled workers, but left many others behind. Industry concentration in downstream operations (e.g., manufacturing and clinical trials), which is thought to benefit mid-skilled workers, has not been realized in Massachusetts. However, there is some evidence that economic benefits are spreading. Growth has concentrated not only in the Boston-Cambridge core, but also in the Worcester I-495 region. Although women and minorities have been underrepresented in the innovation economy, they have had greater access to employment opportunities in the life sciences when compared to other high tech sectors.

In the interest of supporting equity goals in economic development, possible policy solutions are numerous. Growth in the life sciences sector results in increased state tax revenues. This increase in revenue is more than sufficient to cover existing economic development efforts and might also cover initiatives in the local services sector and increase initiatives that address workforce diversity.

Included in

Public Policy Commons