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Urban productivity in the developing world


  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Wentao Xiong


Africa is urbanizing rapidly, and this creates both opportunities and challenges. Labour productivity appears to be much higher in developing-world cities than in rural areas, and historically urbanization is strongly correlated with economic growth. Education seems to be a strong complement to urbanization, and entrepreneurial human capital correlates strongly with urban success. Immigrants provide a natural source of entrepreneurship, both in the US and in Africa, which suggests that making African cities more livable can generate economic benefits by attracting talent. Reducing the negative externalities of urban life requires a combination of infrastructure, incentives, and institutions. Appropriate institutions can mean independent public authorities, public–private partnerships, and non-profit entities, depending on the setting.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward L. Glaeser & Wentao Xiong, 2017. "Urban productivity in the developing world," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(3), pages 373-404.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:oxford:v:33:y:2017:i:3:p:373-404.

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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Morgane De Halleux & Antonio Estache, 2018. "How “smart” are Latin American cities?," Working Papers ECARES 2018-05, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    2. Duranton, Gilles & Venables, Anthony J, 2018. "Place-Based Policies for Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 12889, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Paul Collier & Anthony J. Venables, 2017. "Urbanization in developing economies: the assessment," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(3), pages 355-372.
    4. Rohit Sharma, 2018. "Financing Indian Urban Rail through Land Development: Case Studies and Implications for the Accelerated Reduction in Oil Associated with 1.5 °C," Urban Planning, Cogitatio Press, vol. 3(2), pages 21-34.
    5. Venables, Anthony J, 2018. "Urbanisation in Developing Economies: building cities that work," REGION, European Regional Science Association, vol. 5, pages 91-100.

    More about this item


    urban productivity; developing-world cities; agglomeration; education; entrepreneurship; immigration;

    JEL classification:

    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • R00 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General - - - General
    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship


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