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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 30 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 trade-off 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward L. Glaeser, 2014. "A World Of Cities: The Causes And Consequences Of Urbanization In Poorer Countries," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(5), pages 1154-1199, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:12:y:2014:i:5:p:1154-1199
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/jeea.12100
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    Cited by:

    1. Andersen, Thomas Barnebeck & Jensen, Peter Sandholt & Skovsgaard, Christian Volmar, 2016. "The heavy plow and the agricultural revolution in Medieval Europe," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 133-149.
    2. Giray Gozgor & Baris Kablamaci, 2015. "What happened to urbanization in the globalization era? An empirical examination for poor emerging countries," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 55(2), pages 533-553, December.
    3. Henderson, J. Vernon & Kriticos, Sebastian, 2017. "The development of the African system of cities," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86349, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. repec:eee:ecolet:v:157:y:2017:i:c:p:97-102 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Susanne A. Frick & Andres Rodriguez-Pose, 2017. "Big or small cities? On city size and economic growth," Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography (PEEG) 1725, Utrecht University, Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning, Group Economic Geography, revised Sep 2017.
    6. Zhang, Yuan & Wan, Guanghua, 2017. "Exploring the Trade–Urbanization Nexus in Developing Economies: Evidence and Implications," ADBI Working Papers 636, Asian Development Bank Institute.
    7. Andersen, Thomas Barnebeck & Jensen, Peter Sandholt & Skovsgaard, Christian Stejner, 2013. "The heavy plough and the agricultural revolution in medieval Europe," Discussion Papers of Business and Economics 6/2013, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Business and Economics.
    8. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:26:y:2017:i:c:p:151-163 is not listed on IDEAS

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