Urban Colossus: Why is New York America's Largest City?

44 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2005 Last revised: 25 Aug 2010

See all articles by Edward L. Glaeser

Edward L. Glaeser

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

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Date Written: June 2005

Abstract

New York has been remarkably successful relative to any other large city outside of the sunbelt and it remains the nation's premier metropolis. What accounts for New York's rise and continuing success? The rise of New York in the early nineteenth century is the result of technological changes that moved ocean shipping from a point-to-point system to a hub and spoke system; New York's geography made it the natural hub of this system. Manufacturing then centered in New York because the hub of a transport system is, in many cases, the ideal place to transform raw materials into finished goods. This initial dominance was entrenched by New York's role as the hub for immigration. In the late 20th century, New York's survival is based almost entirely on finance and business services, which are also legacies of the port. In this period, New York's role as a hub still matters, but it is far less important than the edge that density and agglomeration give to the acquisition of knowledge.

Suggested Citation

Glaeser, Edward L., Urban Colossus: Why is New York America's Largest City? (June 2005). NBER Working Paper No. w11398. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=741547

Edward L. Glaeser (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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