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A World of Cities: The Causes and Consequences of Urbanization in Poorer Countries

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  • Edward L. Glaeser

Abstract

Historically, urban growth required enough development to grow and transport significant agricultural surpluses or a government effective enough to build an empire. But there has been an explosion of poor mega-cities over the last thirty years. A simple urban model illustrates that in closed economies, agricultural prosperity leads to more urbanization but that in an open economy, urbanization increases with agricultural desperation. The challenge of developing world mega-cities is that poverty and weak governance reduce the ability to address the negative externalities that come with density. This paper models the connection between urban size and institutional failure, and shows that urban anonymity causes institutions to break down. For large cities with weak governments, draconian policies may be the only way to curb negative externalities, suggesting a painful tradeoff between dictatorship and disorder. A simple model suggests that private provision of infrastructure to reduce negative externalities is less costly when city populations are low or institutions are strong, but that public provision can cost less in bigger cities.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19745.

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Date of creation: Dec 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19745

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  1. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 1999. "Why Is There More Crime in Cities?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S225-S258, December.
  2. Matsuyama, Kiminori, 1992. "Agricultural productivity, comparative advantage, and economic growth," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 317-334, December.
  3. Krugman, Paul & Elizondo, Raul Livas, 1996. "Trade policy and the Third World metropolis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 137-150, April.
  4. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. repec:fth:stanho:e-92-3 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Ethier, Wilfred, 1979. "Internationally decreasing costs and world trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 1-24, February.
  7. David Friedman, 1999. "Why Not Hang Them All: The Virtues of Inefficient Punishment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages S259-S269, December.
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