Freeway revolts were widespread protests across the U.S. following early urban Interstate construction in the mid-1950s. We present theory and evidence from panel data on neighborhoods and travel behavior to show that diminished quality of life from freeway disamenities inspired the revolts, a?ected the allocation of freeways within cities, and changed city structure. First, actual freeway construction diverged from initial plans in the wake of the growing freeway revolts and subsequent policy responses, especially in central neighborhoods. Second, freeways caused slower growth in population, ...
Lockdowns and Innovation: Evidence from the 1918 Flu Pandemic
Does social distancing harm innovation? We estimate the effect of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs)—policies that restrict interactions in an attempt to slow the spread of disease—on local invention. We construct a panel of issued patents and NPIs adopted by 50 large US cities during the 1918 flu pandemic. Difference-in-differences estimates show that cities adopting longer NPIs did not experience a decline in patenting during the pandemic relative to short-NPI cities, and recorded higher patenting afterward. Rather than reduce local invention by restricting localized knowledge ...
What Future for History Dependence in Spatial Economics?
History (sometimes) matters for the location and sizes of cities and neighborhood segregation patterns within cities. Together with evidence on rapid neighborhood change and self-fulfilling expectations, this implies that nature might not completely determine the spatial structure of the economy. Instead, the spatial economy might be characterized by multiple equilibria or multiple steady-state equilibrium paths, where history and expectations can play decisive roles. Better evidence on the conditions under which history matters can help improve theory and policy analysis.
Thick-market effects and churning in the labor market: evidence from U.S. cities
Using U.S. Census microdata, the authors show that, on average, workers change occupation and industry less in more densely populated areas. The result is robust to standard demographic controls, as well as to including aggregate measures of human capital and sectoral mix. Analysis of the displaced worker surveys shows that this effect is present in cases of involuntary separation as well. On the other hand, the authors actually find the opposite result (higher rates of occupational and industrial switching) for the subsample of younger workers. These results provide evidence in favor of ...
Innovation, cities, and new work
Where does adaptation to innovation take place? The supply of educated workers and local industry structure matter for the subsequent location of new work?that is, new types of labor-market activities that closely follow innovation. Using census 2000 microdata, the author shows that regions with more college graduates and a more diverse industrial base in 1990 are more likely to attract these new activities. Across metropolitan areas, initial college share and industrial diversity account for 50% and 20%, respectively, of the variation in selection into new work unexplained by worker ...
The Well-Being of Nations: Estimating Welfare from International Migration
The limitations of GDP as a measure of welfare are well known. We propose a new method of estimating the well-being of nations. Using gross bilateral international migration flows and a discrete choice model in which everyone in the world chooses a country in which to live, we estimate each country?s overall quality of life. Our estimates, by relying on revealed preference, complement previous estimates of economic well-being that consider only income or a small number of factors, or rely on structural assumptions about how these factors contribute to wellbeing.
Urban productivity advantages from job search and matching
Densely populated areas tend to be more productive. Of course, the cost of living and producing in these locations is higher because congestion raises the cost of scarce fixed resources such as land. But despite the higher prices, many people and businesses continue to live and work in these areas. Why? One explanation is that these locations have natural advantages, such as proximity to a river. Another says that this concentration of households and businesses by itself generates productivity advantages in the form of agglomeration economies. In studying these agglomeration economies, ...
Geography, history, economies of density, and the location of cities
Economists believe that people choose to live and work at sites that have productive or amenity value such as a river, harbor, or some other natural resource. Another factor that may determine the location of a city is the benefits derived from density itself: agglomeration economies. Although these complementary explanations both have something useful to say about the locations and sizes of cities, they also have important limitations. While natural features seem important, it is difficult to point to one or even several that are valuable enough to explain a very large metropolitan area. And ...
The paper trail of knowledge transfers
Why do firms tend to locate near other firms? Economists suspect that geographic clustering spurs innovation by letting businesses tap a climate rich in informal transfers of knowledge. By tracing links between inventors filing for patents for the same inventions, Jeffrey Lin shares new evidence supporting the idea that proximity offers businesses tangible benefits.
The puzzling persistence of place
Jeffrey Lin explores the remarkable persistence of urban development patterns over decades, centuries, or even millennia. Is such extreme persistence desirable? What does it imply about today's "place-making" policies?