Suburbanization and the Automobile
During the period 1910 to 1970, an increasing fraction of the urban population in the US chose to live on the outskirts of central cities. This was also a time when a major innovation in transportation technology, the automobile, was introduced and widely adopted. The objective of this paper is to assess quantitatively the relationship between the two. To achieve this, a simple model is constructed in which agents can choose where to live and whether or not to buy a car. When the model is calibrated, it can explain about 70 percent of the rise in car-ownership over the period 1910 to 1970 and all of the suburbanization trend. According to the model, rising income and falling car prices alone are not enough to generate the suburbanization trend. It is essential to have also: (i) a declining cost of commuting by car which allows car-owners to live further away from the city center, and (ii) a rising cost of using public transportation which encourages agents to make the swith to automobiles.
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