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The Economics Approach to Cities

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  • Edward L. Glaeser

Abstract

The economic approach to cities relies on a spatial equilibrium for workers, employers and builders. The worker's equilibrium implies that positive attributes in one location, like access to downtown or high wages, are offset by negative attributes, like high housing prices. The employer's equilibrium requires that high wages be offset by a high level of productivity, perhaps due to easy access to customers or suppliers. The search for the sources of productivity differences that can justify high wages is the basis for the study of agglomeration economies which has been a significant branch of urban economics in the past 20 years. The builder's equilibrium condition pushes us to understand the causes of supply differences across space that can explain why some places have abundant construction and low prices while others have little construction and high prices. Since the economic theory of cities emphasizes a search for exogenous causes of endogenous outcomes like local wages, housing prices and city growth, it is unsurprising that the economic empirics on cities have increasingly focused on the quest for exogenous sources of variation. The economic approach to urban policy emphasizes the need to focus on people, rather than places, as the ultimate objects of policy concern and the need for policy to anticipate the mobility of people and firms.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward L. Glaeser, 2007. "The Economics Approach to Cities," NBER Working Papers 13696, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13696
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gilles Duranton & Diego Puga, 2001. "Nursery Cities: Urban Diversity, Process Innovation, and the Life Cycle of Products," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1454-1477, December.
    2. Edward L. Glaeser, Jed Kolko, and Albert Saiz, 2001. "Consumer city," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1), pages 27-50, January.
    3. Sandra E. Black, 1999. "Do Better Schools Matter? Parental Valuation of Elementary Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 577-599.
    4. Edward Glaeser & Janet Kohlhase, 2003. "Cities, regions and the decline of transport costs," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 83(1), pages 197-228, October.
    5. Katz, Lawrence & Rosen, Kenneth T, 1987. "The Interjurisdictional Effects of Growth Controls on Housing Prices," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 149-160, April.
    6. Edward L. Glaeser & Bryce A. Ward, 2006. "The Causes and Consequences of Land Use Regulation: Evidence from Greater Boston," NBER Working Papers 12601, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Ellison, Glenn & Glaeser, Edward L, 1997. "Geographic Concentration in U.S. Manufacturing Industries: A Dartboard Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(5), pages 889-927, October.
    8. Roback, Jennifer, 1982. "Wages, Rents, and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1257-1278, December.
    9. 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.
    10. Edward L. Glaeser & Matthew E. Kahn & Jordan Rappaport, 2000. "Why Do The Poor Live In Cities?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1891, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    11. Lawrence F. Katz & Jeffrey R. Kling & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2001. "Moving to Opportunity in Boston: Early Results of a Randomized Mobility Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 607-654.
    12. Rosenthal, Stuart S. & Strange, William C., 2001. "The Determinants of Agglomeration," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 191-229, September.
    13. Edward L. Glaeser & Matthew E. Kahn, 1999. "From John Lindsay to Rudy Giuliani: the decline of the local safety net?," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sep, pages 117-132.
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    Cited by:

    1. John I. Carruthers & Natasha T. Duncan & Brigitte S. Waldorf, 2013. "Public And Subsidized Housing As A Platform For Becoming A United States Citizen," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(1), pages 60-90, February.
    2. Alessandro Fiasconaro & Emanuele Strano & Vincenzo Nicosia & Sergio Porta & Vito Latora, 2016. "Spatio-temporal analysis of micro economic activities in Rome reveals patterns of mixed-use urban evolution," Papers 1602.08374, arXiv.org.
    3. Neumark, David & Simpson, Helen, 2015. "Place-Based Policies," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    4. Emanuele Ciani & Francesco David & Guido de Blasio, 2017. "Local labour market heterogeneity in Italy: estimates and simulations using responses to labour demand shocks," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 1112, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    5. Dinkelman, Taryn & Schulhofer-Wohl, Sam, 2015. "Migration, congestion externalities, and the evaluation of spatial investments," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 189-202.
    6. Tara Watson, 2009. "Inequality And The Measurement Of Residential Segregation By Income In American Neighborhoods," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(3), pages 820-844, September.
    7. Zheng, Siqi & Peiser, Richard B. & Zhang, Wenzhong, 2009. "The rise of external economies in Beijing: Evidence from intra-urban wage variation," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 449-459, July.
    8. Matthias Cinyabuguma & Virginia McConnell, 2009. "Urban Growth Externalities and Neighborhood Incentives: Another Cause of Urban Sprawl?," UMBC Economics Department Working Papers 09-106, UMBC Department of Economics.
    9. Edward L. Glaeser & Joshua D. Gottlieb & Oren Ziv, 2016. "Unhappy Cities," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(S2), pages 129-182.
    10. Betz, Michael R. & Partridge, Mark D. & Farren, Michael & Lobao, Linda, 2015. "Coal mining, economic development, and the natural resources curse," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 105-116.
    11. Boarnet, Marlon G. & McLaughlin, Ralph B. & Carruthers, John I., 2011. "Does state growth management change the pattern of urban growth? Evidence from Florida," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 236-252, May.
    12. Sellars, Emily & Alix-Garcia, Jennifer, 2018. "Locational fundamentals, trade, and the changing urban landscape of Mexico," 2018 Annual Meeting, August 5-7, Washington, D.C. 274238, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    13. repec:hal:journl:halshs-00363389 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Juliana Aguilar & Tito Yepes, 2014. "Location of the Poor: Neighborhood versus Household Characteristics. The Case of Bogotá," WORKING PAPERS SERIES. DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO 011559, FEDESARROLLO.
    15. Michael Storper, 2010. "Agglomeration, Trade, And Spatial Development: Bringing Dynamics Back In," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(1), pages 313-342.
    16. Mark D. Partridge, 2010. "The duelling models: NEG vs amenity migration in explaining US engines of growth," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 89(3), pages 513-536, August.
    17. John Carruthers & Gordon F. Mulligan, 2012. "The plane of living and the precrisis evolution of housing values in the USA," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 739-773, July.
    18. John I. Carruthers & Gordon F. Mulligan, 2013. "Through the Crisis," Economic Development Quarterly, , vol. 27(2), pages 124-143, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • R0 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General

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