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Are compact cities environmentally friendly?

  • GAIGNE, Carl
  • RIOU, Stéphane
  • THISSE, Jacques François

There is a large consensus among international institutions and national governments to favor urban-containment policies - the compact city - as a way to improve the ecological performance of the urban system. This approach overlooks a fundamental fact: what matters for the ecological outcome of cities is the mix between the level of population density and the global pattern of activities. As expected, when both the intercity and intraurban distributions of activities are given, a higher population density makes cities more environmentally friendly. However, once we account for the fact that cities may be either monocentric or polycentric as well as for the possible relocation of activities between cities, the relationship between population density and the ecological performance of cities appears to be much more involved. Indeed, because changes in population density affect land rents and wages, firms and workers are incited to relocate, thus leading to new commuting and shipping patterns. We show that policies favoring the decentralization of jobs may be more environmentally desirable.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jue.2012.04.001
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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. James A. Brander & Paul Krugman, 1983. "A 'Reciprocal Dumping' Model of International Trade," NBER Working Papers 1194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Carl Gaigné & Stéphane Riou & François Thisse, 2010. "Are compact cities environmentally friendly?," Working Papers SMART - LERECO 10-05, INRA UMR SMART.
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  7. Engel, Charles & Rogers, John H, 1996. "How Wide Is the Border?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1112-25, December.
  8. Jean Cavailhes & Carl Gaigne & Takatoshi Tabuchi & Jacques-Francois Thisse, 2006. "Trade and the structure of cities," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-454, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  9. Edward L. Glaeser & Matthew E. Kahn, 2003. "Sprawl and Urban Growth," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2004, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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  11. Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Thisse, Jacques-François, 1998. "Agglomeration and Trade Revisited," CEPR Discussion Papers 1903, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. 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.
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  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Carl Gaigné & Stéphane Riou & Jacques-François Thisse, 2010. "Are compact cities environmentally friendly?," Post-Print halshs-00456610, HAL.
  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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