Ulrich J. Eberle, Vernon Henderson, Dominic Rohner, Kurt Schmidheiny, 09 July 2020

Urbanisation is a major driver of economic development. Agglomeration forces that make cities productive and dispersion forces that limit their growth have been extensively studied, but the effect of ethnolinguistic diversity has been largely overlooked. This column shows that more diverse regions tend to experience more social tensions and conflict, less urbanisation, less urban concentration, and hence potentially less economic growth. This effect is however more confined to intermediate political regimes like fragile democracies, whereas a mature degree of democracy helps to defuse the negative impact of diversity on urbanisation.

Gabriel Ahlfeldt, Elisabetta Pietrostefani, 22 February 2019

Most countries pursue policies that implicitly or explicitly aim at promoting ‘compact urban form’, but so far these policies have not been well-grounded in evidence. This column summarises the state of knowledge on the economic effects of density on various economic outcomes. It concludes that densification policies may lead to aggregate welfare gains, but there may be regressive distributional consequences.

Susanne Frick, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, 14 February 2018

Urban concentration is typically deemed to lead to greater national economic growth. This column challenges this view, using an original dataset covering 68 countries over the past three decades. Urban concentration levels have decreased or remained stable on average, though these averages hide widely diverging trends across countries. Although concentration has been beneficial for high-income countries, this hasn’t been the case for for developing countries.

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