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Urban Accounting and Welfare

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  • Klaus Desmet
  • Esteban Rossi-Hansberg

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Klaus Desmet & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2013. "Urban Accounting and Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2296-2327, October.
  • 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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    JEL classification:

    • H71 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • P25 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population
    • R41 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Transportation: Demand, Supply, and Congestion; Travel Time; Safety and Accidents; Transportation Noise

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