Zoning and Segregation in Urban Economic History

29 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2021 Last revised: 3 Jun 2022

See all articles by Allison Shertzer

Allison Shertzer

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics

Tate Twinam

College of William and Mary

Randall Walsh

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2021

Abstract

Recent work has argued that zoning is responsible for racial segregation, disparities in public goods provision, growing regional inequality, and exploding housing costs in productive areas. However, the slow-moving nature of land regulation’s effects suggests a crucial need for historical perspective to understand how zoning has shaped cities over the long term. This essay places the introduction of zoning in the broader context of urban development in the early twentieth century, with a focus on how the demand for separation of racial groups influenced some of the earliest zoning ordinances in American cities. We also discuss the long-run impact of zoning on the development of cities and highlight the key gaps in our understanding of the role of urban and suburban zoning in fostering segregation within cities and across metropolitan areas. A key lesson from our work in this area is that racial dimensions are important when studying land use regulations, even when the policies in question are ostensibly race neutral.

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Suggested Citation

Shertzer, Allison and Twinam, Tate and Walsh, Randall, Zoning and Segregation in Urban Economic History (January 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w28351, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3768264

Allison Shertzer (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics ( email )

4901 Wesley Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

Tate Twinam

College of William and Mary ( email )

P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23185
United States

Randall Walsh

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics ( email )

4901 Wesley Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

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