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Cities, regions and the decline of transport costs

  • Edward Glaeser


  • Janet Kohlhase


The theoretical framework of urban and regional economics is built on transportation costs for manufactured goods. But over the twentieth century, the costs of moving these goods have declined by over 90% in real terms, and there is little reason to doubt that this decline will continue. Moreover, technological change has eliminated the importance of fixed infrastructure transport (rail and water) that played a critical role in creating natural urban centres. In this article, we document this decline and explore several simple implications of a world where it is essentially free to move goods, but expensive to move people. We find empirical support for these implications. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin/Heidelberg 2003

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Papers in Regional Science.

Volume (Year): 83 (2003)
Issue (Month): 1 (October)
Pages: 197-228

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Handle: RePEc:spr:ecogov:v:83:y:2003:i:1:p:197-228
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  1. Antonio Ciccone & Robert E. Hall, 1993. "Productivity and the Density of Economic Activity," NBER Working Papers 4313, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ed Glaeser & Jed Kolko & Albert Saiz, 2000. "Consumer City," NBER Working Papers 7790, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Xavier Gabaix & Yannis M. Ioannides, 2003. "The Evolution of City Size Distributions," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0310, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  4. Edward L. Glaeser & David C. Mare, 1994. "Cities and Skills," NBER Working Papers 4728, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Robert E. Lucas & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2002. "On the Internal Structure of Cities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1445-1476, July.
  6. Brueckner, Jan K., 1987. "The structure of urban equilibria: A unified treatment of the muth-mills model," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: E. S. Mills (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 20, pages 821-845 Elsevier.
  7. Glaeser, Edward L. & Kahn, Matthew E., 2004. "Sprawl and urban growth," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 56, pages 2481-2527 Elsevier.
  8. Gaspar, Jess & Glaeser, Edward L., 1998. "Information Technology and the Future of Cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 136-156, January.
  9. Small, K.A. & Gomez-Ibanez, J.A., 1996. "Urban Transportation," Papers 95-96-4, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  10. Small, Kenneth A. & Song, Shunfeng, 1994. "Population and Employment Densities: Structure and Change," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt6nk5v6b4, University of California Transportation Center.
  11. McMillen, Daniel P. & Smith, Stefani C., 2003. "The number of subcenters in large urban areas," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(3), pages 321-338, May.
  12. Rappaport, Jordan & Sachs, Jeffrey D, 2003. " The United States as a Coastal Nation," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 5-46, March.
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