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Cities, regions and the decline of transport costs

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  • Edward Glaeser
  • Janet Kohlhase

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

  • Edward Glaeser & Janet Kohlhase, 2003. "Cities, regions and the decline of transport costs," Papers in Regional Science, Springer;Regional Science Association International, vol. 83(1), pages 197-228, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:presci:v:83:y:2003:i:1:p:197-228
    DOI: 10.1007/s10110-003-0183-x
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Edward L. Glaeser, Jed Kolko, and Albert Saiz, 2001. "Consumer city," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1), pages 27-50, January.
    2. Small, Kenneth A. & Gomez-Ibanez, Jose A., 1999. "Urban transportation," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: P. C. Cheshire & E. S. Mills (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 46, pages 1937-1999, Elsevier.
    3. 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.
    4. Small Kenneth A. & Song Shunfeng, 1994. "Population and Employment Densities: Structure and Change," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 292-313, November.
    5. 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.
    6. Ciccone, Antonio & Hall, Robert E, 1996. "Productivity and the Density of Economic Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 54-70, March.
    7. Glaeser, Edward L & Mare, David C, 2001. "Cities and Skills," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 316-342, April.
    8. Gabaix, Xavier & Ioannides, Yannis M., 2004. "The evolution of city size distributions," 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 53, pages 2341-2378, Elsevier.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    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. Robert E. Lucas & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2002. "On the Internal Structure of Cities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1445-1476, July.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    transport costs; congestion; spatial distribution of economic activity; concentration and decentralisation; productivity; growth of cities and regions; density;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)
    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns

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