Keisuke Kondo, 23 July 2017

The large literature on agglomeration economies attests to the higher average productivity of firms in larger cities. However, this literature focuses on positive externalities, and a second potential mechanism – selection against less productive firms – has received little empirical attention. This column explores how these two mechanisms contribute to higher productivity in Japanese cities. Consistent with earlier work considering the case of France, no evidence for a selection effect is found.

Paul Collier, Anthony Venables, 01 May 2017

Cities are key drivers of economic growth. In this video Paul Collier and Anthony Venables discuss how public policy should create effective cities that work. This video was recorded at the International Growth Centre in March 2017.

Raymond Owens, Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, Pierre-Daniel Sarte, 15 February 2017

The decline of manufacturing employment in industrialised countries has hit some cities hard. This column looks at perhaps the best-known case – Detroit – where residents have deserted the neighbourhoods closest to the central business district in favour of the suburbs, despite the longer commute. Redeveloping these areas requires coordination between multiple developers, residents, and the city governments that facilitate permits and public services. The authors propose the introduction of ‘development guarantees’ to ease the coordination problems.

Edward Glaeser, 19 October 2016

There is strong correlation between cities and wealth. In this video, Edward Glaeser explains why cities and urbanisation foster prosperity and development. This video was recorded at the International Growth Centre.

Rudiger Ahrend, Alexander Lembcke, Abel Schumann, 19 January 2016

A city’s metropolitan governance structure has a critical influence on the quality of life and economic outcomes of its inhabitants. This column quantifies the impact of governance on productivity using data from five OECD countries. Administrative fragmentation, which complicates policy coordination across a city, has a negative effect on individual productivity. This finding, combined with benefits from good governance such as improved transport and lower pollution levels, highlights the importance of well-designed metropolitan authorities.

Nicholas Crafts, Alex Klein, 30 July 2015

There is increasing evidence that cities offer externalities that raise labour productivity. This column looks at the contribution of US cities to productivity growth at the turn of last century. The findings show that increased specialisation, promoted by improved transportation, was the key to productivity growth. Today’s policymakers should heed this lesson.

John Gibson, Chao Li, 23 July 2015

The size of cities in China – and the effects of city size on productivity – are important topics for urban economists. This column argues that the data used in many previous studies of Chinese cities do not stand up to scrutiny because they do not take nearly enough workers into account. More comprehensive data on city employment from China’s 2010 census suggest that there are lots of inefficiently small cities.

Henri De Groot, Gerard Marlet, Coen Teulings, Wouter Vermeulen, 21 June 2015

Only a few decades ago many talked about the ‘death of cities’. Today, many cities have emerged as hubs of economic activity. This column argues such a phenomenon is due to spill-overs and agglomeration of human capital. The popularity of certain cities is explained by their attractiveness for innovative enterprises and high-educated top talent. But since locations where top talent clusters are scarce, land rents on these locations are high.

Trevon Logan, John Parman, 09 March 2015

Racial disparities in socioeconomic conditions remain a major policy issue throughout the world. This column applies a new neighbour-based measure of residential segregation to US census data from 1880 and 1940. The authors find that existing measures understate the extent of segregation, and that segregation increased in rural as well as urban areas. The dramatic decline in opposite-race neighbours during the 20th century may help to explain the persistence of racial inequality in the US.

Neil Lee, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 17 February 2015

Creativity is assumed to be the mother of invention, but research testing whether this is the case is surprisingly rare. This column addresses this gap in the literature by assessing whether firms in creative industries in the UK are more innovative than firms outside creative industries. The authors also examine whether the location of creative-industry firms in creative cities – and the size of creative cities – matters for the innovative capacity of these firms.

Edward Glaeser, Joshua Gottlieb, Oren Ziv, 15 October 2014

Governments are now measuring happiness, or subjective wellbeing, and some have begun trying to maximise it. This column discusses recent research showing that happiness is not the same thing as utility. The choices people make suggest that they have desires and objectives other than happiness. It is therefore possible to make people worse off while increasing their reported subjective wellbeing.

Shahid Yusuf, Danny Leipziger, 03 March 2014

Urbanisation and GDP per capita are positively correlated across countries. However, when the sample is restricted to developing countries, urbanisation and growth are more loosely related – particularly in Africa. CEPR Policy Insight 71 argues that the low share of manufacturing in developing-country cities may help to explain this discrepancy. Strengthening urban finances, embracing technology, improving skills, and stimulating the formal sector will help cities to promote growth. Since decisions affecting urban development can have lasting impact, longer-term planning deserves greater attention than it is currently receiving.

Danny Leipziger, Shahid Yusuf, 03 March 2014

Urbanisation and GDP per capita are positively correlated across countries. However, when the sample is restricted to developing countries, urbanisation and growth are more loosely related – particularly in Africa. This column argues that the low share of manufacturing in developing-country cities may help to explain this discrepancy. Strengthening urban finances, embracing technology, improving skills, and stimulating the formal sector will help cities to promote growth. Since decisions affecting urban development can have lasting impact, longer-term planning deserves greater attention than it is currently receiving.

Takatoshi Tabuchi, 28 November 2013

Two important long-run trends in economic geography are steady urbanisation and agglomeration to the big cities. This column presents recent research on population trends focusing on fixed regions over time. In seven of the eight countries studied, the region containing the largest metropolitan area significantly increased in population share at the expense of the rest of the country over the past few centuries. A ‘new economic geography’ model with multiple, asymmetric regions can replicate this new stylised fact.

Nicholas Crafts, Nikolaus Wolf, 22 October 2013

Europeans worry about competition from low-wage economies. This column looks at the basis of the success of the 19th-century Lancashire cotton industry faced with a similar situation. The message is that the productivity benefits of a successful agglomeration can underpin both high wages and competitive advantage in world trade. Policymakers can support such agglomerations by easing land-use restrictions, promoting investments in transport, and providing local public goods.

Matthew Kahn, Siqi Zheng, 14 April 2009

What should China do about its noted pollution problems? This column shows that Chinese cities with less air pollution have higher home prices, suggesting that “green amenities” enter housing prices. Moreover, this marginal valuation of clean air is rising over time. China’s major cities may be becoming cleaner as their inhabitants demand improved environmental conditions.

Edward Glaeser, 05 September 2008

Edward Glaeser of Harvard University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about the lessons from his research on how falling costs of communication and transportation have been kind to idea-producing cities like New York, Boston and London and devastating to goods-producing cities like Cleveland, Detroit and Glasgow. The interview was recorded at the American Economic Association meetings in New Orleans in January 2008.

David Audretsch, Oliver Falck, Maryann Feldman, Stephan Heblich, 29 April 2008

Economic geography models suggest various relationships between innovation and spatial concentration, from benefits of diversity in cities to agglomeration gains in specialised industrial parks. This column summarises empirical research that uses these theories to explain various stages of “regional lifecycles.” An important result is that supra-national EU policymakers are poorly positioned to address regions’ differing needs.

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