The Micro Persistence of Layouts and Design: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from the United States Housing Corporation
40 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2021
Date Written: January 23, 2021
Neighborhood plans have been a crucial tool used by urban planners to control developments' type and character. This paper examines whether the initial plan of neighborhoods and their design features have a causal and persistent effect on a neighborhood's physical form today. I explore this question in the context of the United States Housing Corporation—the first large-scale urban planning housing initiative in the United States. I show that plans introduced by the USHC persisted and continue to influence the structure of neighborhoods today. To disentangle the role of location fundamentals (e.g., geography) from the causal effect of plans, I exploit a sharp natural experiment where I compare USHC neighborhoods that were planned but canceled with others that were planned and constructed. I show that this persistence is causal and reflects the path dependence of plans. Finally, I decompose the plans into their design features and show that the configuration of blocks and the street layout persist via path-dependence and are, therefore, characteristics that urban planners can influence in the long-run.
Keywords: path dependence, urban planning, urban form, economic history
JEL Classification: R00, N00, R10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation