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Urban Accounting and Welfare

  • Klaus Desmet
  • Esteban Rossi-Hansberg

We use a simple theory of a system of cities to decompose the determinants of the city size distribution into three main components: efficiency, amenities, and frictions. Higher efficiency and better amenities lead to larger cities but also to greater frictions through congestion and other negative effects of agglomeration. Using data on MSAs in the United States, we estimate these city characteristics. Eliminating variation in any of them leads to large population reallocations, but modest welfare effects. We apply the same methodology to Chinese cities and find welfare effects that are many times larger than those in the US.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 103 (2013)
Issue (Month): 6 (October)
Pages: 2296-2327

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:103:y:2013:i:6:p:2296-2327
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.103.6.2296
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