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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. 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.
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  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 & 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. James Brander & Paul Krugman, 1980. "A "Reciprocal Dumping" Model of International Trade," Working Papers 405, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
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  11. Jean Cavailhes & Carl Gaigne & Jacques-Rrancois Thisse, 2006. "Trade and the structure of cities," KIER Working Papers 623, Kyoto University, Institute of Economic Research.
  12. Edward L. Glaeser & Matthew E. Kahn, 2003. "Sprawl and Urban Growth," NBER Working Papers 9733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Charles Engel & John H. Rogers, 1995. "How wide is the border?," Research Working Paper 95-09, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
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