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Information Technology and the Future of Cities

  • Jess Gaspar
  • Edward L. Glaeser

Will improvements in information technology eliminate face-to- face interactions and make cities obsolete? In this paper, we present a model where individuals make contacts and choose whether to use electronic or face-to-face meetings in their interactions. Cities are modeled as a means of reducing the fixed travel costs involved in face-to-face interactions. When telecommunications technology improves, there are two opposing effects on cities and face-to-face interactions: some relationships that used to be face-to-face will be done electronically (an intuitive substitution effect), and some individuals will choose to make more contacts, many of which result in face-to-face interactions. Our empirical work suggests that telecommunications may be a complement, or at least not a strong substitute for cities and face-to-face interactions. We also present simple models of learning in person, from a written source, or over the phone, and find that interactive communication dominates other forms of learning when ideas are complicated.

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Paper provided by Harvard - Institute of Economic Research in its series Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers with number 1756.

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Date of creation: 1996
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:1756
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  1. Glaeser, Edward L & Mare, David C, 2001. "Cities and Skills," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 316-42, April.
  2. Krugman, Paul, 1991. "Increasing Returns and Economic Geography," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(3), pages 483-99, June.
  3. Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "The Economics of Superstars," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 845-58, December.
  4. Jaffe, A.B. & Trajtenberg, M., 1992. "Geographic Localization of Knowledge Spillovers as Evidenced by Patent Citations," Papers 14-92, Tel Aviv.
  5. Ota, Mitsuru & Fujita, Masahisa, 1993. "Communication technologies and spatial organization of multi-unit firms in metropolitan areas," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(6), pages 695-729, December.
  6. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1979. "Job Matching and the Theory of Turnover," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 972-90, October.
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