The dynamics of global urban expansion
Shlomo Angel, Stephan C. Sheppard and Daniel Civco, World Bank, September 2004

Despite a continued more from country to town, especially in the 3rd world, urban densities in all regions of the world are decreasing over time, consistent with the ‘suburbanisation’ theory. If average densities continue to decline at the annual rate of 1.7% (as they have over the past decade), then the doubling of the developing world's urban population by 2030 will result in a tripling of their built-up areas. Government attempts to control migration flows are usually failures, the report notes.

The continuing decentralization of people and jobs in the US
Dongwhan An, Peter Gordon and Harry Richardson, February 2002

The population of the US continues to decentralise, despite much media talk of ‘recentralisation’. Frosbet-sunbelt migration is one powerful factor. The second trend is a mixture of suburban and exurban growth. Consistently, the core centres of the largest metro areas have fared the worst, according to this study of 10-year trends, based on the US census for 2000.

Changing urban housing markets in advanced economies
Hugo Priemus, December 2003

Suburbanisation in the US has led to the ‘doughnut city’ – prosperous suburbs, derelict centres. In Europe the major cities such as London, but even more secondary major cities like Manchester have also tended to lose density to a belt of around 20-30 smaller cities within a radius of up to 80 kilometres.

There has been talk of ‘reconcentration’, but the evidence points in the other direction, to mega-cities of 40 or 50 cities constituting a networked urban region with up to 20 or 30 million people (the Pearl River Delta model).

The article goes on to speculate about the likely impact of the internet / ICT on home-ownership patterns. People will increasingly work at home, and will increasingly want second homes, as activities become less tied to work-locations, and more to personal choices. However, the areas of maximum internet use are clearly the cities, and there is evidence that the economic growth of cities has recently been faster than that of the countryside.

Conclusion: mega cities are the future.

Where are the jobs? Cities, suburbs and the competition for employment
John Brennan and Edward Hill, November 1999

The economic boom of the mid-1990s has helped most cities stem the tide of decline, but did not enable them to beat their suburbs in the competition for new jobs, according to this paper, which looked at data from 92 metropolitan regions.

  • More than half (52) of the cities had an increase in jobs, but overall their growth rates trailed the growth rates of their suburbs (though nearly 20 percent (17) of the cities had positive employment growth rates that exceeded the growth rates in their suburbs).
  • Even though most of the central cities gained new jobs during this period, the vast majority of them - 75 central cities, or 82 percent- lost private sector employment market share to their suburbs.
  • One-quarter (23) of the central cities experienced employment losses, while their suburbs enjoyed employment gains.

The problem of decentralization, or cities' loss of market share, is not confined to older industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest. Cities in the South and West that are rapidly gaining jobs - Austin, Phoenix, Charlotte, Nashville - are losing out to their suburbs, which have even faster growth rates and are increasing their market share of jobs.

A top 10 list of things to know about American cities
Elvin Wyly, Norman Glickman and Michael Lahr, 1998

The 10 fastest growing cities reported by the Census Bureau to 1990 shared several characteristics:
- They were relatively small—all but one had a 1990 population of less than 200,000.
- Several were suburbs of larger urban centres.
- Several were close to the Mexican border.

All were in five Sunbelt States—Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, and Texas.

All these are continuations of the well-known trends of the past quarter century.
Interregionally, growth occurred in the South and West while the Frostbelt experienced a decline—especially in large cities.

Consumer city
HIER, Edward Glaeser, Jed Kolko and Albert Saiz, June 2000

The authors argue that the role of urban density in facilitating consumption is extremely important and understudied. As firms become more mobile, the success of cities hinges on their role as centres of consumption.

Empirically, the authors find that high amenity cities have grown faster than low amenity cities. Urban rents have gone up faster than urban wages, suggesting that the demand for living in cities has risen for reasons beyond rising wages. The rise of reverse commuting suggests the same consumer city phenomena.

Attractive cities tend to do better than unattractive cities, and sunny ones better than frosty ones. Schools and low crime are also very important. Very central areas tend to do better than outer areas (within the hole of the doughnut).

“Rising incomes have both income and price effects. First, of course, rising incomes mean that people will demand more of “normal” goods and particularly they will demand more of luxury goods. Insofar as cities excel in providing these goods, this will increase the demand for cities.

Why economists still like cities
Edward Glaeser, Spring 1996

Workers in big cities earn considerably more than workers in small cities, who in turn earn far more than their rural counterparts.

Cities reduce transport costs, and enable better division of labour, giving workers a wider market for their talents.

This is still true, though cities that depended on manufacturing have tended to decline. Cities that have refocused on knowledge industries have thrived. Present size is less important to growth, than past growth. Cities which have seen recent rapid growth, are more likely to continue to grow rapidly.

Educational institutions are important. The urban environment is important. Cities which provide pleasurable environments which foster knowledge, will do well.

Cities, regions, and the decline of transport costs
HIER, Edward Glaeser and Janet Kohlhase, July 2003

Two facts: As people get richer they value time more; and delays due to traffic congestion have been dramatically increasing. Second: Over the twentieth century, the costs of moving goods have declined by over 90% in real terms.

This article explores several simple implications of a world where it is essentially free to move goods, but expensive to move people. Conclusion: “If cities are about facilitating the contact of individuals, not moving goods, then we should expect people with more human capital to live in highly dense areas.

“This implication occurs because these higher human capital people have higher wages and thus a higher cost of transporting themselves. Thus we should expect them to live in closer proximity. There is also the likelihood that the gains from interaction will be higher among the more skilled who also tend to concentrate in more social occupations.

“The second significant transport technology change is the reduced importance of public transportation, ports, rail hubs, and other massive infrastructure centres…As such, we have moved from monocentric cities to polycentric regions, which are polycentric or rather uncentred entirely. This change is a major reason why increasingly relevant economic units are regions, rather than urban cores.

“Together these changes suggest a natural structure for urban models of the twenty-first century. The only innate advantages that matter are consumer amenities….”

Is there a new urbanism?
The Growth of U.S. Cities in. the 1990s, Edward Glaeser and Jesse Shapiro. June 2001

Looks at what caused US urban growth in the 1990s Notes that the correlation between high-growing cities in the 1980s, and high-growing cities in the 1990s was very high – over 75%.
Three facts stand out:

  • People moved to drier, warmer cities.
  • Cities with high amounts of human capital did well, those with large numbers of the poor (e.g., as measured by the graduate : high school dropout ratio) did poorly
  • Lower density cities centering cars did better than higher density cities centering around public transport

The economic geography of talent
Richard Florida, September 2000

Summary: Cities with high diversity, high amounts of cultural facilities, will attract talented people, and this in turn will attract jobs.

Are Europe's cities better?
Pietro Nivola, Fall 1999

While European cities have vibrant centres with sought-after housing, US cities tend to be ‘doughnuts’ with decayed centres, abandoned by residents.

Why? Several factors:

  • The US was much emptier; suburbanisation is easier.
  • Urban crime rates are much higher in the US than in Europe, pushing people out of city centres.
  • Public agendas have been very different, with much higher petrol taxes in Europe, higher electricity costs, and much higher levels of investment in public transport.

Cities are more lightly taxed in Europe, benefiting from high central government subsidies.