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New Estimates of the Elasticity of Substitution of Land for Capital

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  • Gabriel Ahlfeldt

    ()

  • Daniel McMillen

Abstract

We reconcile conflicting evidence on the magnitude of the elasticity of substitution of land for capital, which is a key determinant of the relationship between the price of land and the density of land use. We first compare the performance of classic estimation approaches with a new estimation procedure using a series of Monte Carlo experiments. We then apply the approaches to various real-world data sets drawn from Berlin, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Our results indicate that many existing estimates are likely to be biased downward, and the true elasticity is likely to be closer to one than widely believed in the literature. The results suggest that a Cobb-Douglas form is a reasonable approximation to of the production function for housing.

Suggested Citation

  • Gabriel Ahlfeldt & Daniel McMillen, 2014. "New Estimates of the Elasticity of Substitution of Land for Capital," ERSA conference papers ersa14p108, European Regional Science Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa14p108
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    File URL: http://www-sre.wu.ac.at/ersa/ersaconfs/ersa14/e140826aFinal00108.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt & Stephen J. Redding & Daniel M. Sturm & Nikolaus Wolf, 2015. "The Economics of Density: Evidence From the Berlin Wall," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 83, pages 2127-2189, November.
    2. Raurich, Xavier & Sala, Hector & Sorolla, Valeri, 2012. "Factor shares, the price markup, and the elasticity of substitution between capital and labor," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 181-198.
    3. David Albouy & Gabriel Ehrlich, 2012. "Housing Productivity and the Social Cost of Land-Use Restrictions," NBER Working Papers 18110, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Combes, Pierre-Philippe & Duranton, Gilles & Gobillon, Laurent, 2012. "The Costs of Agglomeration: Land Prices in French Cities," IZA Discussion Papers 7027, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Douglas Gollin, 2002. "Getting Income Shares Right," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(2), pages 458-474, April.
    6. Clapp, John M., 1980. "The elasticity of substitution for land: The effects of measurement errors," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 255-263, September.
    7. Revankar, Nagesh S, 1971. "A Class of Variable Elasticity of Substitution Production Functions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 39(1), pages 61-71, January.
    8. Kau, James B. & Sirmans, C. F., 1979. "Urban land value functions and the price elasticity of demand for housing," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 112-121, January.
    9. Combes, Pierre-Philippe & Duranton, Gilles & Gobillon, Laurent, 2012. "The Costs of Agglomeration: Land Prices in French Cities," IZA Discussion Papers 7027, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. McMillen, Daniel P., 1996. "One Hundred Fifty Years of Land Values in Chicago: A Nonparametric Approach," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 100-124, July.
    11. Thorsnes, Paul, 1997. "Consistent Estimates of the Elasticity of Substitution between Land and Non-Land Inputs in the Production of Housing," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 98-108, July.
    12. Akos Valentinyi & Berthold Herrendorf, 2008. "Measuring Factor Income Shares at the Sector Level," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(4), pages 820-835, October.
    13. McDonald, John F., 1981. "Capital-land substitution in urban housing: A survey of empirical estimates," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 190-211, March.
    14. Dennis Epple & Brett Gordon & Holger Sieg, 2010. "A New Approach to Estimating the Production Function for Housing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 905-924, June.
    15. Polinsky, A Mitchell & Ellwood, David T, 1979. "An Empirical Reconciliation of Micro and Grouped Estimates of the Demand for Housing," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 61(2), pages 199-205, May.
    16. McDonald, John F. & Bowman, H. Woods, 1979. "Land value functions: A reevaluation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 25-41, January.
    17. Daniel P. McMillen & John F. McDonald, 2002. "Land Values In A Newly Zoned City," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 62-72, February.
    18. McMillen, Daniel & O’Sullivan, Arthur, 2013. "Option value and the price of teardown properties," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 71-82.
    19. Jackson, Jerry R. & Johnson, Ruth C. & Kaserman, David L., 1984. "The measurement of land prices and the elasticity of substitution in housing production," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 1-12, July.
    20. Arnott, Richard J & Lewis, Frank D, 1979. "The Transition of Land to Urban Use," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(1), pages 161-169, February.
    21. Clapp, John M., 1979. "The substitution of urban land for other inputs," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 122-134, January.
    22. Dowall, David E. & Alan Treffeisen, P., 1991. "Spatial transformation in cities of the developing world : Multinucleation and land-capital substitution in Bogota, Colombia," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 201-224, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Miles, David K & Sefton, James, 2017. "Houses across time and across place," CEPR Discussion Papers 12103, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Lang, Bree J., 2015. "Input distortions in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit: Evidence from building size," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 119-128.
    3. repec:eee:dyncon:v:87:y:2018:i:c:p:106-123 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Borri, Nicola & Reichlin, Pietro, 2018. "The housing cost disease," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 106-123.
    5. Or Levkovich & Jan Rouwendal, 2016. "Spatial Planning and Segmentation of the Land Market," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-018/VIII, Tinbergen Institute.
    6. Sevrin Waights, 2016. "The Preservation of Historic Districts - Is it Worth it?," SERC Discussion Papers 0202, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Elasticity of substitution; housing production function; land values; Monte Carlo simulatio;

    JEL classification:

    • R20 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - General
    • R30 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location - - - General

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