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Suburbanization and highways: when the romans, the bourbons and the first cars still shape Spanish cities


  • Miquel- Àngel Garcia-López

    () (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona & IEB)

  • Adelheid Holl

    () (CSIC, Institute for Public Goods and Policies)

  • Elisabet Viladecans-Marsal

    () (Universitat de Barcelona & IEB)


We estimate the effects of highways on the suburbanization of Spanish cities. First, we extend previous findings for the US and China by providing evidence for Europe: each additional highway ray built between 1991 and 2006 produced a 5 per cent decline in central city population between 1991 and 2011. Second, our main contribution is at the intrametropolitan level. We find that highway improvements influence the spatial pattern of suburbanization: suburban municipalities that were given improved access to the highway system between 1991 and 2006 grew 4.6% faster. The effect was most marked in suburbs located at 5–11 km from the central city (7.1%), and concentrated near the highways: population spreaded out along the (new) highway segments (4.7%) and ramps (2.7%). To estimate the causal relationship between population growth and highway improvements, we rely on an IV estimation. We use Spain’s historical road networks – Roman roads, 1760 main post roads, and 19th century main roads – to construct our candidates for use as instruments.

Suggested Citation

  • Miquel- Àngel Garcia-López & Adelheid Holl & Elisabet Viladecans-Marsal, 2013. "Suburbanization and highways: when the romans, the bourbons and the first cars still shape Spanish cities," Working Papers 2013/5, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  • Handle: RePEc:ieb:wpaper:2013/6/doc2013-5

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Glaeser, Edward L. & Kahn, Matthew E., 2010. "The greenness of cities: Carbon dioxide emissions and urban development," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 404-418, May.
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    3. Glaeser, Edward L. & Kahn, Matthew E., 2004. "Sprawl and urban growth," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics,in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 56, pages 2481-2527 Elsevier.
    4. Miquel- Àngel Garcia-López, 2012. "Urban spatial structure, suburbanization and transportation in Barcelona," Working Papers 2012/11, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    5. Gilles Duranton & Matthew A. Turner, 2011. "The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2616-2652, October.
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    7. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, 2010. "Changes in Transportation Infrastructure and Commuting Patterns in US Metropolitan Areas, 1960-2000," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 378-382, May.
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    9. Timothy J. Bartik, 1991. "Who Benefits from State and Local Economic Development Policies?," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number wbsle, November.
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    15. Adelheid Holl, 2011. "Factors influencing the location of new motorways: the large scale motorway building in Spain," Working Papers 1105, Instituto de Políticas y Bienes Públicos (IPP), CSIC.
    16. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, 2007. "Did Highways Cause Suburbanization?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 775-805.
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    Blog mentions

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    1. New historical development papers on my desk
      by Robin in Cherokee Gothic on 2013-04-18 18:00:05


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    Cited by:

    1. Rafael González-Val & Daniel A. Tirado-Fabregat & Elisabet Viladecans-Marsal, 2017. "Market potential and city growth: Spain 1860–1960," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 11(1), pages 31-61, January.
    2. Redding, Stephen J. & Turner, Matthew A., 2015. "Transportation Costs and the Spatial Organization of Economic Activity," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    3. Miquel-Àngel Garcia-López & Albert Solé-Ollé & Elisabet Viladecans-Marsal, 2014. "Do land use policies follow road construction?," Working Papers 2014/2, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    4. Mayer, Thierry & Trevien, Corentin, 2017. "The impact of urban public transportation evidence from the Paris region," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 1-21.

    More about this item


    Suburbanization; highways; transportation infrastructure;

    JEL classification:

    • R4 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics
    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy

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