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Cities, Regions and the Decline of Transport Costs

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  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Janet E. Kohlhase

Abstract

The theoretical framework of urban and regional economics is built on transportation costs for manufactured goods. But over the twentieth century, the costs of moving these goods have declined by over 90% in real terms, and there is little reason to doubt that this decline will continue. Moreover, technological change has eliminated the importance of fixed infrastructure transport (rail and water) that played a critical role in creating natural urban centres. In this article, we document this decline and explore several simple implications of a world where it is essentially free to move goods, but expensive to move people. We find empirical support for these implications.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9886.

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Date of creation: Aug 2003
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Publication status: published as Glaeser, Edward L. and J.E. Kohlhase. 2004. “Cities, Regions and the Decline of Transport Costs." Papers in Regional Science 83(1): 197-228.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9886

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  1. Small, Kenneth A. & Gomez-Ibanez, Jose A., 1999. "Urban transportation," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: P. C. Cheshire & E. S. Mills (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 46, pages 1937-1999 Elsevier.
  2. Glaeser, Edward L. & Kahn, Matthew E., 2004. "Sprawl and urban growth," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 56, pages 2481-2527 Elsevier.
  3. Small Kenneth A. & Song Shunfeng, 1994. "Population and Employment Densities: Structure and Change," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 292-313, November.
  4. Edward L. Glaeser, Jed Kolko, and Albert Saiz, 2001. "Consumer city," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1), pages 27-50, January.
  5. Ciccone, Antonio & Hall, Robert E, 1996. "Productivity and the Density of Economic Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 54-70, March.
  6. Gabaix, Xavier & Ioannides, Yannis M., 2004. "The evolution of city size distributions," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 53, pages 2341-2378 Elsevier.
  7. Glaeser, Edward L & Mare, David C, 2001. "Cities and Skills," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 316-42, April.
  8. McMillen, Daniel P. & Smith, Stefani C., 2003. "The number of subcenters in large urban areas," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(3), pages 321-338, May.
  9. Jess Gaspar & Edward Glaeser, 1996. "Information Technology and the Future of Cities," NBER Working Papers 5562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Brueckner, Jan K., 1987. "The structure of urban equilibria: A unified treatment of the muth-mills model," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: E. S. Mills (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 20, pages 821-845 Elsevier.
  11. Rappaport, Jordan & Sachs, Jeffrey D, 2003. " The United States as a Coastal Nation," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 5-46, March.
  12. Robert E. Lucas & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2002. "On the Internal Structure of Cities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1445-1476, July.
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