Date of Graduation

Spring 5-7-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in International and Development Economics (MSIDEC)


College of Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Jesse Anttila-Hughes


Culture is a driving force in organizing the structure of societies, and is conjoined with economic development. However, quantifying the impact of culture is difficult. Culture manifests itself in cultural production, through art, performance, music, etc. Innovation and influence in cultural production industries partially determines product quality. Using techniques from the “digitized humanities”, we agnostically identify informational distance to describe the spatiotemporal dynamics of innovation and influence in Rap music lyrics. Rap emphasizes lyricism and hometown pride more than other genres of popular music, and is interesting as a globally impactful manifestation of the racially segregated labor market in the U.S. Resources and production are not spread evenly within an economy. Geographic clustering of economic activity is well discussed across the social sciences. Although first discussed in relation to manufacturing, urban agglomeration has been observed empirically for both cultural production and innovation in general. We find that number of Rappers and maximum novelty scale with overall and Black/African-American population at the MSA-level, suggesting an increasing return to maximum novelty through greater chance of recombination. Rapper population is predicted by Black/African-American population, while measures of song quality are predicted by total population. This paper contributes a novel dataset and application of the methodology to economic questions of cultural production.