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Are compact cities environmentally friendly?

  • GAIGNE, 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 environmentally- friendly when one accounts for the general equilibrium effects generated by such a policy.

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Paper provided by Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) in its series CORE Discussion Papers RP with number -2404.

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Handle: RePEc:cor:louvrp:-2404
Note: In : Journal of Urban Economics, 72(2-3), 123-136, 2012
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  1. Carl Gaigné & Ian Wooton, 2010. "The gains from preferential tax regimes reconsidered," Working Papers SMART - LERECO 10-06, INRA UMR SMART.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Engel, C. & Rogers, J.H., 1995. "How Wide is the Border?," Papers 4-95-16, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  5. 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.
  6. Glaeser, Edward L. & Kahn, Matthew E., 2010. "The greenness of cities: Carbon dioxide emissions and urban development," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 404-418, May.
  7. 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.
  8. Brownstone, David & Golob, Thomas F., 2009. "The impact of residential density on vehicle usage and energy consumption," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 91-98, January.
  9. James Brander & Paul Krugman, 1980. "A "Reciprocal Dumping" Model of International Trade," Working Papers 405, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  10. 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.
  11. OTTAVIANO, Gianmarco & TABUCHI , Takatoshi & THISSE, Jacques-François, . "Agglomeration and trade revisited," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1553, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  12. Haufler, Andreas & Wooton, Ian, 2010. "Competition for firms in an oligopolistic industry: The impact of economic integration," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 239-248, March.
  13. Engel, Charles & Rogers, John H., 2001. "Deviations from purchasing power parity: causes and welfare costs," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 29-57, October.
  14. Jacques-François Thisse, 2010. "Toward A Unified Theory Of Economic Geography And Urban Economics," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(1), pages 281-296.
  15. Jean Cavailhes & Carl Gaigne & Jacques-Rrancois Thisse, 2006. "Trade and the structure of cities," KIER Working Papers 623, Kyoto University, Institute of Economic Research.
  16. Jean Cavailhes & Carl Gaigné & Takatoshi Tabuchi & Jean-François Thisse, 2012. "Trade and the structure of cities," Working Papers 170328, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, France.
  17. Timothy, Darren & Wheaton, William C., 2001. "Intra-Urban Wage Variation, Employment Location, and Commuting Times," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 338-366, September.
  18. Muniz, Ivan & Galindo, Anna, 2005. "Urban form and the ecological footprint of commuting. The case of Barcelona," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 499-514, December.
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