The Richmond Fed and Urban Economics
Redefining Main Street
How should suburbs help their central cities?
In this paper, we study the question whether suburbs should help finance the core public services of their central cities. We review three arguments that have been offered in favor of suburbs' fiscal assistance to their central cities. First, the central city provides public services that benefit suburban residents. Second, the central city may provide redistributive services to low-income central city residents that benefit suburbanites with redistributive preferences for such transfers. For efficiency, suburbanites should contribute toward such services in proportion to the benefits they ...
Productivity and the density of human capital
We estimate a model of urban productivity in which the agglomeration effect of density is enhanced by a metropolitan area's stock of human capital. Estimation accounts for potential biases due to the endogeneity of density and industrial composition effects. Using new information on output per worker for U.S. metropolitan areas along with a measure of density that accounts for the spatial distribution of population, we find that a doubling of density increases productivity by 2 to 4 percent. Consistent with theories of learning and knowledge spillovers in cities, we demonstrate that the ...
Conference explores inner-city business development
The May 1 conferences titled "The untapped urban market: attracting business to the inner city," and presented by the Buffalo Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in partnership with the University at Buffalo Department of Planning, discussed the economic challenges faced by inner-city communities and explored effective strategies for business development. We summarize the various inner-city development models presented at the conference and the discussion that arose around them.
Can cities control their destiny?
Congestion, agglomeration, and the structure of cities
Superseded by Working Paper 16-13. Congestion pricing has long been held up by economists as a panacea for the problems associated with ever increasing traffic congestion in urban areas. In addition, the concept has gained traction as a viable solution among planners, policymakers, and the general public. While congestion costs in urban areas are significant and clearly represent a negative externality, economists also recognize the advantages of density in the form of positive agglomeration externalities. The long-run equilibrium outcomes in economies with multiple correlated, but ...
We study the urban structure of the city of Detroit. Following several decades of decline, the city's current urban structure is clearly not optimal for its size, with a business district immediately surrounded by a ring of largely vacant neighborhoods. We propose a model with residential externalities that features multiple equilibria at the neighborhood level. In particular, developing a residential area requires the coordination of developers and residents, without which it may remain vacant even if its fundamentals are sound. We embed this mechanism in a quantitative spatial economics ...
Subprime mortgages, foreclosures, and urban neighborhoods
This paper analyzes the impact of the subprime mortgage crisis on urban neighborhoods in Massachusetts. We explore the topic using a data set that matches race and income information from Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data with property-level, transaction data from Massachusetts Registry of Deeds offices. With these data, we show that much of the subprime lending in the state was concentrated in urban neighborhoods and that minority homeownerships created with subprime mortgages have proved exceptionally unstable in the face of rapid price declines. The evidence in Massachusetts suggests that ...