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Cities, skills, and regional change

One approach to urban areas emphasizes the existence of certain immutable relationships, such as Zipf's or Gibrat's Law. An alternative view is that urban change reflects individual responses to changing tastes or technologies. This paper examines almost 200 years of regional change in the U.S. and finds that few, if any, growth relationships remain constant, including Gibrat's Law. Education does a reasonable job of explaining urban resilience in recent decades, but does not seem to predict county growth a century ago. After reviewing this evidence, we present and estimate a simple model of regional change, where education increases the level of entrepreneurship. Human capital spillovers occur at the city level because skilled workers produce more product varieties and thereby increase labor demand. We find that skills are associated with growth in productivity or entrepreneurship, not with growth in quality of life, at least outside of the West. We also find that skills seem to have depressed housing supply growth in the West, but not in other regions, which supports the view that educated residents in that region have fought for tougher land-use controls. We also present evidence that skills have had a disproportionately large impact on unemployment during the current recession.

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File URL: http://www.econ.upf.edu/docs/papers/downloads/1255.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1255.

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Date of creation: Jun 2010
Date of revision: Mar 2011
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1255
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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  1. Klaus Desmet & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2010. "Spatial Development," Working Papers 2010.26, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  2. Kim, Sukkoo & Margo, Robert A., 2004. "Historical perspectives on U.S. economic geography," 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 66, pages 2981-3019 Elsevier.
  3. Edward L. Glaeser & Albert Saiz, 2003. "The Rise of the Skilled City," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2025, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  4. Desmet, Klaus & Rossi-Hansberg, Esteban, 2009. "Spatial growth and industry age," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(6), pages 2477-2502, November.
  5. Gabaix, Xavier & Ioannides, Yannis M., 2004. "The evolution of city size distributions," 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 53, pages 2341-2378 Elsevier.
  6. Edward Glaeser & William Kerr & Giacomo Ponzetto, 2009. "Clusters of Entrepreneurship," Working Papers 09-36, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  7. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko & Raven E. Saks, 2005. "Urban Growth and Housing Supply," NBER Working Papers 11097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Ed Glaeser & Jed Kolko & Albert Saiz, 2000. "Consumer City," NBER Working Papers 7790, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Eaton, Jonathan & Eckstein, Zvi, 1997. "Cities and growth: Theory and evidence from France and Japan," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(4-5), pages 443-474, August.
  10. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko, 2005. "Urban Decline and Durable Housing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(2), pages 345-375, April.
  11. Edward L. Glaeser & Janet E. Kohlhase, 2003. "Cities, Regions and the Decline of Transport Costs," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2014, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  12. Steckel, Richard H., 1978. "The Economics of U.S. Slave and Southern White Fertility," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 38(01), pages 289-291, March.
  13. Mark Wright & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2004. "Urban Structure and Growth," 2004 Meeting Papers 33, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  14. Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "Smart Cities: Quality of Life, Productivity, and the Growth Effects of Human Capital," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(2), pages 324-335, May.
  15. Jaimovich, Nir & Floetotto, Max, 2008. "Firm dynamics, markup variations, and the business cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(7), pages 1238-1252, October.
  16. Jan Eeckhout, 2004. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1429-1451, December.
  17. Duranton, Gilles, 2006. "Some foundations for Zipf's law: Product proliferation and local spillovers," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 542-563, July.
  18. Simon, Curtis J. & Nardinelli, Clark, 2002. "Human capital and the rise of American cities, 1900-1990," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 59-96, January.
  19. Thomas J. Holmes, 1998. "The Effect of State Policies on the Location of Manufacturing: Evidence from State Borders," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(4), pages 667-705, August.
  20. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
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