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Tall buildings and land values: height and construction cost elasticities in Chicago, 1870 – 2010

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  • Ahlfeldt, Gabriel M.
  • McMillen, Daniel P.

Abstract

Cities around the world are experiencing unprecedented vertical growth. Yet, the econom-ics of skyscrapers remain empirically understudied. This paper analyzes the determinants of the urban height profile by combining a micro-geographic data set on tall buildings with a unique panel of land prices covering 140 years. We provide novel estimates of the land price elasticity of height, the height elasticity of construction cost, and the elasticity of substitution between land and capital for tall build-ings. In line with improvements in construction technology, the land price elasticity of height increased substantially over time, rationalizing a trend to ever taller buildings. The land price elasticity of height is larger for commercial than for residential buildings, suggesting that the typical segregation of land uses within cities is not exclusively shaped by the demand side, but also by the supply side.

Suggested Citation

  • Ahlfeldt, Gabriel M. & McMillen, Daniel P., 2018. "Tall buildings and land values: height and construction cost elasticities in Chicago, 1870 – 2010," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 84873, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:84873
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/84873/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jason Barr, 2013. "Skyscrapers And Skylines: New York And Chicago, 1885–2007," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(3), pages 369-391, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt & Volker Nitsch & Nicolai Wendland, 2019. "Ease Versus Noise: Long-Run Changes in the Value of Transport (Dis)amenities," CEP Discussion Papers dp1631, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    chicago; construction cost; density; height; land value; skyscraper;

    JEL classification:

    • Q15 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment

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