Beautiful City: Leisure Amenities and Urban Growth

40 Pages Posted: 29 May 2020

See all articles by Gerald A. Carlino

Gerald A. Carlino

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Albert Saiz

IZA Institute of Labor Economics; MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2019


Modern urban economic theory and policymakers are coming to see the provision of consumer‐leisure amenities as a way to attract population, especially the highly skilled and their employers. However, past studies have arguably only provided indirect evidence of the importance of leisure amenities for urban development. In this paper, we propose and validate the number of tourist trips and the number of crowdsourced picturesque locations as measures of consumer revealed preferences for local lifestyle amenities. Urban population growth in the 1990–2010 period was about 10% points (about one standard deviation) higher in a metro area that was perceived as twice more picturesque. This measure ties with low taxes as the most important predictor of urban population growth. “Beautiful cities” disproportionally attracted highly educated individuals and experienced faster housing price appreciation, especially in supply‐inelastic markets. In contrast to the generally declining trend of the American central city, neighborhoods that were close to central recreational districts have experienced economic growth, although at the cost of minority displacement.

Keywords: amenities, internal migration, urban population growth

Suggested Citation

Carlino, Gerald A. and Saiz, Albert and Saiz, Albert, Beautiful City: Leisure Amenities and Urban Growth (June 2019). Journal of Regional Science, Vol. 59, Issue 3, pp. 369-408, 2019, Available at SSRN: or

Gerald A. Carlino (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ( email )

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Albert Saiz

MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning ( email )

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