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Learning in Cities

  • Edward 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 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6271.

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Date of creation: Nov 1997
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 46, no. 2 (September 1999): 254-277
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6271
Note: LS
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  1. Henderson, Vernon & Kuncoro, Ari & Turner, Matt, 1995. "Industrial Development in Cities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 1067-90, October.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Edward L. Glaeser & Hedi D. Kallal & Jose A. Scheinkman & Andrei Shleifer, 1991. "Growth in Cities," NBER Working Papers 3787, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Kallal, Hedi D. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Shleifer, Andrei, 1992. "Growth in Cities," Scholarly Articles 3451309, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Jess Gaspar & Edward Glaeser, 1996. "Information Technology and the Future of Cities," NBER Working Papers 5562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. Jovanovic, Boyan & Rob, Rafael, 1989. "The Growth and Diffusion of Knowledge," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(4), pages 569-82, October.
  8. Edward L. Glaeser & David C. Mare, 1994. "Cities and Skills," NBER Working Papers 4728, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Murphy, Kevin M & Welch, Finis, 1992. "The Structure of Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 285-326, February.
  10. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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