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Are compact cities environmentally friendly?

  • Gaigné, Carl
  • Riou, Stéphane
  • Thisse, Jacques-François

There is a wide consensus among international institutions and national governments in favor of compact (i.e. densely populated) cities as a way to improve the ecological performance of the transport system. Indeed, when both the intercity and intra-urban distributions of activities are given, a higher population density makes cities more environmentally friendly because the average commuting length is reduced. However, when we account for the possible relocation of activities within and between cities in response to a higher population density, the latter may cease to hold. Indeed, an increasing-density policy affects prices, wages and land rents, which in turn incentivizes firms and households to change place. This reshapes the urban system in a way that may generate a higher level of pollution. Thus, although an increase in compactness is environmentally desirable when locations are given, compactness may not be environmentally-friendly when one accounts for the general equilibrium effects generated by such a policy.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Urban Economics.

Volume (Year): 72 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 123-136

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Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:72:y:2012:i:2:p:123-136
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622905

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  1. Carl Gaigné & Stéphane Riou & Jacques-François Thisse, 2010. "Are compact cities environmentally friendly?," Working Papers 1001, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure.
  2. Gaigné, Carl & Wooton, Ian, 2011. "The gains from preferential tax regimes reconsidered," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 59-66, January.
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  12. Cavailhes, Jean & Gaigne, Carl & Tabuchi, Takatoshi & Thisse, Jacques-Francois, 2007. "Trade and the structure of cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(3), pages 383-404, November.
  13. Tabuchi, Takatoshi, 1998. "Urban Agglomeration and Dispersion: A Synthesis of Alonso and Krugman," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 333-351, November.
  14. Kahn, Matthew E. & Schwartz, Joel, 2008. "Urban air pollution progress despite sprawl: The "greening" of the vehicle fleet," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 775-787, May.
  15. Charles Engel & John H. Rogers, 1999. "Deviations from Purchasing Power Parity:Causes and Welfare Costs," Working Papers 0038, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
  16. Bento, Antonio M. & Franco, Sofia F. & Kaffine, Daniel, 2006. "The efficiency and distributional impacts of alternative anti-sprawl policies," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 121-141, January.
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