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Gordon Hanson

Peter Wertheim Professor in Urban Policy


Cities are the locus of global economic dynamism. Urban density confers advantages to firms, by improving their access to markets and prospects for innovation, and workers, by elevating their productivity while on the job and their leisure opportunities while off it. However, density has also downsides in the form of greater congestion, higher housing costs, and elevated risk of disease exposure. The balance between these pull-push forces drives urbanization in emerging economies, creates an evolving hierarchy of cities within countries, and makes place a determining factor for human well-being. We begin the course by discussing economic frameworks that explain how cities form and develop, why industries concentrate geographically, and why some cities prosper whereas others suffer extended decline. We next address key policy issues confronting cities in both high-income and emerging economies, including congestion, urban sprawl, affordable housing, homelessness, public health, place-based policies for distressed regions, and climate change and sustainability. The course highlights data analytic approaches to urban economic policy and involves a mix of traditional lectures, in-class case studies and policy debates, and guest lectures by policy practitioners.