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Learning in Cities

  • Edward L. Glaeser

Alfred Marshall argues that industrial agglomerations exist in part because individuals can" learn skills from each other when they live and work in close proximity to one another. An" increasing amount of evidence suggests that the informational role of cities is a primary reason for" their continued existence. This paper formalizes Marshall's theory in a model where individuals" acquire skills by interacting with one another, and dense urban areas increase the speed of" interactions. The model predicts that cities will have a higher mean and higher variance of skills." Cities will attract young people who are not too risk averse and who benefit most from learning" (e.g. more patient people). Older, more skilled workers will stay in cities only if they can" internalize some of the benefits that their presence creates for young people. The level of" urbanization will rise when the demand for skills rises, when the ability to learn by imitation rises or when the level of health in the economy rises. Empirical evidence on urban wages supports the" learning view of cities and a variety of other implications of the theory are corroborated" empirically.

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Paper provided by Harvard - Institute of Economic Research in its series Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers with number 1814.

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Date of creation: 1997
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Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:1814
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  1. Jovanovic, Boyan & Rob, Rafael, 1989. "The Growth and Diffusion of Knowledge," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(4), pages 569-82, October.
  2. Adam B. Jaffe & Manuel Trajtenberg & Rebecca Henderson, 1992. "Geographic Localization of Knowledge Spillovers as Evidenced by Patent Citations," NBER Working Papers 3993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Murphy, Kevin M & Welch, Finis, 1992. "The Structure of Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 285-326, February.
  4. Gaspar, Jess & Glaeser, Edward L., 1998. "Information Technology and the Future of Cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 136-156, January.
  5. Rauch James E., 1993. "Productivity Gains from Geographic Concentration of Human Capital: Evidence from the Cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 380-400, November.
  6. Becker, G.S. & Murphy, K.M., 1991. "The Division of Labor, Coordination Costs, and Knowledge," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 92-5, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  7. Edward L. Glaeser & David C. Mare, 1994. "Cities and Skills," NBER Working Papers 4728, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Kallal, Hedi D. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Shleifer, Andrei, 1992. "Growth in Cities," Scholarly Articles 3451309, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  9. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
  10. J. Vernon Henderson & Ari Kuncoro & Matthew Turner, 1992. "Industrial Development in Cities," NBER Working Papers 4178, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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