Gordon Hanson Photo

Gordon Hanson

Peter Wertheim Professor in Urban Policy


This course examines the role of public policy in urban and regional economic development. Cities are the engines of modern economies. They attract workers seeking jobs, firms pursuing access to markets, consumers wanting an abundant variety of goods and services, and families searching for schools and community. Urban density confers economic benefits by making workers more productive while on the job and providing them with greater leisure opportunities while at play. Yet, city residents must contend with traffic congestion, expensive housing, pollution, unequal access to opportunity, and disease exposure. Alongside larger cities, smaller cities and rural communities play vital economic roles, often by leveraging their natural resources. Regional pull-and-push factors, together with competition between regions for capital and labor, create a hierarchy of places, in which there tends to be a small number of large cities, a large number of small cities, and inequality within and between places. Technological change, globalization, climate change, and government policy continually perturb the economic geography, moving regions up and down the ladder of prosperity. In part one of the course, we examine the economic forces that drive urban and regional growth, induce industries to concentrate geographically, and cause some communities to flourish and others to languish. In part two of the course, we consider policies to address affordable housing, urban sprawl, traffic congestion, regional economic disparities, climate change, informal settlements, and the rise of work from home. The course emphasizes data analytic approaches to urban economic policy and involves a mix of traditional lectures, and in-class case studies and policy debates. About 60% of course material relates to the U.S. and about 40% of material is international. New this year, the course will incorporate insights and data from the Reimagining the Economy Project.