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The Economics Approach to Cities

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  • Edward L. Glaeser

Abstract

The economic approach to cities relies on a spatial equilibrium for workers, employers and builders. The worker's equilibrium implies that positive attributes in one location, like access to downtown or high wages, are offset by negative attributes, like high housing prices. The employer's equilibrium requires that high wages be offset by a high level of productivity, perhaps due to easy access to customers or suppliers. The search for the sources of productivity differences that can justify high wages is the basis for the study of agglomeration economies which has been a significant branch of urban economics in the past 20 years. The builder's equilibrium condition pushes us to understand the causes of supply differences across space that can explain why some places have abundant construction and low prices while others have little construction and high prices. Since the economic theory of cities emphasizes a search for exogenous causes of endogenous outcomes like local wages, housing prices and city growth, it is unsurprising that the economic empirics on cities have increasingly focused on the quest for exogenous sources of variation. The economic approach to urban policy emphasizes the need to focus on people, rather than places, as the ultimate objects of policy concern and the need for policy to anticipate the mobility of people and firms.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13696.

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Date of creation: Dec 2007
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13696

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  1. Katz, Lawrence & Rosen, Kenneth T, 1987. "The Interjurisdictional Effects of Growth Controls on Housing Prices," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 149-60, April.
  2. Edward Glaeser & Janet Kohlhase, 2003. "Cities, regions and the decline of transport costs," Papers in Regional Science, Springer, vol. 83(1), pages 197-228, October.
  3. Gilles Duranton & Diego Puga, 2000. "Nursery cities: urban diversity, process innovation and the life-cycle of products," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20204, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  4. Edward L. Glaeser & Matthew E. Kahn, 1999. "From John Lindsay to Rudy Giuliani: the decline of the local safety net?," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sep, pages 117-132.
  5. Roback, Jennifer, 1982. "Wages, Rents, and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1257-78, December.
  6. Ellison, Glenn & Glaeser, Edward L, 1997. "Geographic Concentration in U.S. Manufacturing Industries: A Dartboard Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(5), pages 889-927, October.
  7. Edward L. Glaeser & Jed Kolko & Albert Saiz, 2000. "Consumer City," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1901, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  8. Edward L. Glaeser & Matthew E. Kahn & Jordan Rappaport, 2000. "Why Do The Poor Live In Cities?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1891, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  9. Lawrence Katz & B. Jeffrey Liebman, 2000. "Moving to Opportunity in Boston: Early Results of a Randomized Mobility Experiment," Working Papers 820, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  10. James E. Rauch, 1991. "Productivity Gains From Geographic Concentration of human Capital: Evidence From the Cities," NBER Working Papers 3905, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Rosenthal, Stuart S. & Strange, William C., 2001. "The Determinants of Agglomeration," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 191-229, September.
  12. Edward L. Glaeser & Bryce A. Ward, 2006. "The Causes and Consequences of Land Use Regulation: Evidence from Greater Boston," NBER Working Papers 12601, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Sandra E. Black, 1999. "Do Better Schools Matter? Parental Valuation Of Elementary Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(2), pages 577-599, May.
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Cited by:
  1. John Carruthers & Ralph Mclaughlin & Marlon Boarnet, 2006. "Does State Growth Management Change the Pattern of Urban Growth? Evidence From Florida," ERSA conference papers ersa06p544, European Regional Science Association.
  2. Zheng, Siqi & Peiser, Richard B. & Zhang, Wenzhong, 2009. "The rise of external economies in Beijing: Evidence from intra-urban wage variation," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 449-459, July.
  3. Matthias Cinyabuguma & Virginia McConnell, 2009. "Urban Growth Externalities and Neighborhood Incentives: Another Cause of Urban Sprawl?," UMBC Economics Department Working Papers 09-106, UMBC Department of Economics.
  4. Tara Watson, 2009. "Inequality And The Measurement Of Residential Segregation By Income In American Neighborhoods," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(3), pages 820-844, 09.
  5. repec:hal:journl:halshs-00363389 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. David Neumark & Helen Simpson, 2014. "Place-Based Policies," NBER Working Papers 20049, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Edward L. Glaeser & Joshua D. Gottlieb & Oren Ziv, 2014. "Unhappy Cities," NBER Working Papers 20291, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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