Creative Destruction: Barriers to Urban Growth and the Great Boston Fire of 1872

73 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2014 Last revised: 5 Jun 2021

See all articles by Richard Hornbeck

Richard Hornbeck

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Daniel Keniston

Yale University; Yale University - Cowles Foundation; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); The International Growth Centre; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)

Date Written: September 2014

Abstract

Historical city growth, in the United States and worldwide, has required remarkable transformation of outdated durable buildings. Private land-use decisions may generate inefficiencies, however, due to externalities and various rigidities. This paper analyzes new plot-level data in the aftermath of the Great Boston Fire of 1872, estimating substantial economic gains from the created opportunity for widespread reconstruction. An important mechanism appears to be positive externalities from neighbors' reconstruction. Strikingly, gains from this opportunity for urban redevelopment were sufficiently large that increases in land values were comparable to the previous value of all buildings burned.

Suggested Citation

Hornbeck, Richard and Keniston, Daniel, Creative Destruction: Barriers to Urban Growth and the Great Boston Fire of 1872 (September 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20467, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2492977

Richard Hornbeck (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Daniel Keniston

Yale University ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States
203-432-3620 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://keniston.commons.yale.edu

Yale University - Cowles Foundation ( email )

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

The International Growth Centre ( email )

32 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) ( email )

30 Wadsworth Street, E53-320
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
13
Abstract Views
892
PlumX Metrics