Cities and Warfare: The Impact of Terrorism on Urban Form

31 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2001

See all articles by Edward L. Glaeser

Edward L. Glaeser

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Brookings Institution; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jesse M. Shapiro

Brown University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Abstract

What impact will terrorism have on America's cities? Historically, large-scale violence has impacted cities in three ways. First, concentrations of people have an advantage in defending themselves from attackers, making cities more appealing in times of violence. Second, cities often make attractive targets for violence, which creates an incentive for people to disperse. Finally, since warfare and terrorism often specifically target means of transportation, violence can increase the effective cost of transportation, which will usually increase the demand for density. Evidence on war and cities in the 20th century suggests that the effect of wars on urban form can be large (for example, Berlin in World War II), but more commonly neither terrorism nor wars have significantly altered urban form. As such, across America the effect of terrorism on cities is likely to be small. The only exception to this is downtown New York which, absent large-scale subsidies, will probably not be fully rebuilt. Furthermore, such subsidies make little sense to us.

Suggested Citation

Glaeser, Edward L. and Shapiro, Jesse M., Cities and Warfare: The Impact of Terrorism on Urban Form. Harvard Institute of Economic Research Paper No. 1942. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=293959 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.293959

Edward L. Glaeser (Contact Author)

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Jesse M. Shapiro

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