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Cities and Ethics: An Essay for Jane Jacobs


  • Edward L. Glaeser


This tribute to Jane Jacobs connects some of her ideas on cities and her work on ethical systems. In particular, I present data suggesting that ethical norms do substantially differ between big cities and small towns. These findings motivate a model showing cities tend to limit the ability of social groups to punish their members. Since the ability to punish is lower in cities, ethical strictures cannot be as tough in cities. I discuss the role of cities in fomenting ethical change. Finally, following Jacobs' distinction between mercantile ethical systems and warrior or guardian ethical systems, I present a model where cities become centers for mercantile ethics.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward L. Glaeser, 1998. "Cities and Ethics: An Essay for Jane Jacobs," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1823, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:1823

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Saint Jane versus the Nimby
      by Jason Barr in Skynomics Blog on 2018-08-23 12:26:28

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