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Urban Decline and Durable Housing

  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Joseph Gyourko

Most of America’s largest cities in 1950 have declined since then. In these declining areas, most homes cost less than the cost of new construction. In 1990, nearly 60 percent of all owner-occupied single-unit residences in Midwest central cities were valued at less than the cost of construction. Indeed, these declining cities appear to persist because of the durability of housing. We present a durable housing model that explains a number of facts about urban dynamics. Housing durability explains why city growth rates are leptokurtotic, and why cities grow more quickly than they decline. Housing durability can explain the striking persistence of city growth rates among declining cities. Housing durability explains why positive shocks to cities appear to increase population more than prices and why negative shocks appear to reduce price more than population. Finally, and most importantly, durable housing may explain why declining cities appear to attract individuals with low levels of human capital. Both authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Research Sponsors Program of the Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center at Wharton. Glaeser also thanks the National Science Foundation. Jesse Shapiro and Christian Hilber provided excellent research assistance. This paper is dedicated to our teacher, Sherwin Rosen, who taught us all much about housing markets.

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Paper provided by Wharton School Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center, University of Pennsylvania in its series Zell/Lurie Center Working Papers with number 382.

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Handle: RePEc:wop:pennzl:382
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  1. 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.
  2. Edward L Glaeser & Jesse M Shapiro, 2003. "Urban Growth in the 1990s: Is City Living Back?," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(1), pages 139-165.
  3. Edward L. Glaeser & Joseph Gyourko, 2001. "Urban Decline and Durable Housing," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1931, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  4. Glaeser, Edward L. & Scheinkman, JoseA. & Shleifer, Andrei, 1995. "Economic growth in a cross-section of cities," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 117-143, August.
  5. Braid, Ralph M., 1988. "Uniform spatial growth with perfect foresight and durable housing," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 41-59, January.
  6. Avinash K. Dixit & Robert S. Pindyck, 1994. "Investment under Uncertainty," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 5474, 06-2016.
  7. Julie Berry Cullen & Steven D. Levitt, 1999. "Crime, Urban Flight, And The Consequences For Cities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(2), pages 159-169, May.
  8. Paul Gompers & Joy Ishii & Andrew Metrick, 2003. "Corporate Governance and Equity Prices," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 107-156.
  9. repec:hoo:wpaper:e-95-4 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Krugman, Paul, 1991. "History and Industry Location: The Case of the Manufacturing Belt," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 80-83, May.
  11. Jonathan Eaton & Zvi Eckstein, 1994. "Cities and Growth: Theory and Evidence from France and Japan," NBER Working Papers 4612, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Krugman, Paul, 1991. "Increasing Returns and Economic Geography," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(3), pages 483-99, June.
  13. Gyourko, Joseph & Tracy, Joseph, 1991. "The Structure of Local Public Finance and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 774-806, August.
  14. Robert M. Solow, 1973. "Congestion Cost and the Use of Land for Streets," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 4(2), pages 602-618, Autumn.
  15. Wheaton, William C., 1982. "Urban spatial development with durable but replaceable capital," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 53-67, July.
  16. Goodman, John Jr. & Ittner, John B., 1992. "The accuracy of home owners' estimates of house value," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(4), pages 339-357, December.
  17. Blomquist, Glenn C & Berger, Mark C & Hoehn, John P, 1988. "New Estimates of Quality of Life in Urban Areas," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(1), pages 89-107, March.
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