Urban Economics Association

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2020 Lectures on Urban Economics

June 11 - July 30, 2020
Thursdays 11:00-13:00, Eastern Time (US and Canada)

This June and July, the Urban Economics Association is organizing a weekly online lecture series on urban economics. The purpose of these lectures is to provide PhD students, post-docs and junior faculty with an introduction to the current research frontier in urban economics. We interpret urban economics broadly, including housing, real estate, transportation, local public good provision, the spatial distribution of activities, economic geography, and urban or regional policy.


Ed Glaeser

11 June 2020
Ed Glaeser (Harvard University)
"Equilibrium over Space: The Canonical Urban Models"

Leah Boustan

18 June 2020
Leah Platt Boustan (Princeton University)
"Race, Migration, and Cities"

Gilles Duranton

25 June 2020
Gilles Duranton (Wharton)
"The Benefits and Costs of Cities"

Steve Redding

2 July 2020
Steve Redding (Princeton University)
"Quantitative Urban Models"

9 July 2020
Vernon Henderson (London School of Economics)
"Cities in Developing Countries"

Dave Donaldson

16 July 2020
Dave Donaldson (MIT)
"Economic Geography and Path Dependence"

Veronica Guerrieri

23 July 2020
Veronica Guerrieri (Chicago Booth)
"Neighborhoods and Inequality"

Esteban Rossi-Hansberg

30 July 2020
Esteban Rossi-Hansberg (Princeton University)
"Dynamics in Spatial Economics"


Registration for this event is free of charge at
You only need to register once for the entire lecture series. Once you have registered, you will receive an email with the Zoom link for the lectures.


The lectures run on Thursdays from 11:00-13:00, Eastern Time (US and Canada) and will use a Zoom Webinar. The lectures will also be streamed live on YouTube at


Clare Balboni (MIT), Donald Davis (Columbia University), Fabian Eckert (Princeton and UCSD), Kurt Schmidheiny (University of Basel), Daniel Sturm (London School of Economics), Matthew Turner (Brown University).

PhD Student Workshop

To complement this lecture series, the Urban Economics Association will also run an online PhD Student Workshop in September 2020. The workshop will provide advanced PhD students with an opportunity to present and discuss their own research.

Detailed Program and Material

Week 1
Date: 11 June 2020, 11:00-13:00, Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Lecturer:   Ed Glaeser (Harvard University)
Title: Equilibrium over Space: The Canonical Urban Models
Abstract: The fundamental theoretical tool of urban economics is the assumption of an equilibrium across space. Individuals and firms have the option to relocate, and hence they must receive roughly the same welfare or profits in different locations. This lecture will introduce the two most canonical models of urban economics: the intra-city Alonso-Muth-Mills model and the inter-city Rosen-Roback model. I will then discuss how these models can include heterogeneous agents with place-specific preferences and how these models can be used as a basis for empirical work.
Material: Slides (pdf), References (pdf)
Video: YouTube
Week 2
Date: 18 June 2020, 11:00-13:00, Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Lecturer:   Leah Platt Boustan (Princeton University)
Title: Race, Migration, and Cities
Abstract: Cities are productive sites for economic activity. Yet not all urban residents have equal access to the economic opportunities provided in urban areas. This lecture will explore the historical determinants of residential segregation by race and immigrant status, and the economic consequences of segregation and immigrant enclaves in the past and today. Special attention will be paid to exciting new sources of historical longitudinal census data that can be geocoded with individual street addresses.
Material: Slides (pdf), References (pdf)
Video: YouTube
Week 3
Date: 25 June 2020, 11:00-13:00, Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Lecturer:   Gilles Duranton (Wharton)
Title: The Benefits and Costs of Cities
Abstract: Cities bring substantial economic benefits. But, as the covid crisis painfully reminds us, large human concentrations also entail costs. This lecture will review the well-established literature on agglomeration economies, putting special emphasis on measurement and identification issues. It will also introduce the more recent work that examines the various costs of cities and how to articulate them together. Finally, I will discuss the equilibrium resulting from the tradeoff between benefits and costs of urbanization.
Material: Slides (pdf), References (pdf)
Video: YouTube
Week 4
Date: 2 July 2020, 11:00-13:00, Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Lecturer:   Steve Redding (Princeton University)
Title: Quantitative Urban Models
Abstract: This lecture reviews recent developments in quantitative models of cities. The complexity of modeling spatial interactions between agents has meant that the theoretical literature on urban economics and economic geography has traditionally focused on stylized settings − such as a small number of symmetric locations − that cannot easily be taken to the data. More recent research has developed quantitative models of the spatial distribution of economic activity within and across cities. These models are rich enough to incorporate first-order features of the data, such as large numbers of locations with heterogeneous geography, productivity, amenities, and local factors, as well as trade and commuting costs. At the same time, these models are sufficiently tractable to enable quantitative counterfactuals to evaluate empirically meaningful policies and counterfactual scenarios.
Material: Slides (pdf), References (pdf)
Video: YouTube
Week 5
Date: 9 July 2020, 11:00-13:00, Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Lecturer:   Vernon Henderson (London School of Economics)
Title: Cities in Developing Countries
Abstract: Sub-Sharan Africa and large parts of Asia are the last frontiers of urbanization. Many countries in these regions are rapidly urbanizing at relatively low incomes and with undeveloped institutions. This poses severe problems in managing quality of life and urban investment. Moreover, in a large set of countries urbanization is occurring in the absence of classic structural transformation. For the urban system, that poses economic and policy issues. For economists, it poses challenges in modeling and in developing relevant data sets. For within city development, there is the challenge of developing “sustainable cities” and managing the institutions to encourage appropriate investment in durable capital: buildings, roads, and other infrastructure. We examine key issues concerning the role of slums, land market institutions, and housing markets.
Material: References (pdf)
Video: YouTube livestream

We acknowledge the kind support of the International Economics Section at Princeton University.