Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2370201
 


 



A World of Cities: The Causes and Consequences of Urbanization in Poorer Countries


Edward L. Glaeser


Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government, Department of Economics; Brookings Institution; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

December 2013

NBER Working Paper No. w19745

Abstract:     
Historically, urban growth required enough development to grow and transport significant agricultural surpluses or a government effective enough to build an empire. But there has been an explosion of poor mega-cities over the last thirty years. A simple urban model illustrates that in closed economies, agricultural prosperity leads to more urbanization but that in an open economy, urbanization increases with agricultural desperation. The challenge of developing world mega-cities is that poverty and weak governance reduce the ability to address the negative externalities that come with density. This paper models the connection between urban size and institutional failure, and shows that urban anonymity causes institutions to break down. For large cities with weak governments, draconian policies may be the only way to curb negative externalities, suggesting a painful tradeoff between dictatorship and disorder. A simple model suggests that private provision of infrastructure to reduce negative externalities is less costly when city populations are low or institutions are strong, but that public provision can cost less in bigger cities.

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Number of Pages in PDF File: 61

working papers series


Date posted: December 20, 2013  

Suggested Citation

Glaeser, Edward L., A World of Cities: The Causes and Consequences of Urbanization in Poorer Countries (December 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w19745. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2370201

Contact Information

Edward L. Glaeser (Contact Author)
Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government, Department of Economics ( email )
Littauer Center
Room 315A
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2150 (Phone)
617-496-1722 (Fax)
Brookings Institution
1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036-2188
United States
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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