This course introduces economic frameworks for understanding both the benefits and challenges of living in, working in and managing cities. Urban economics incorporates the concept of space into canonical economic models and provides a lens for analyzing and describing the nature and organization of economic activity in urban settings. We will explore questions around why cities exist in the first place, what determines their growth, and what features contribute to their economic advantages as well as their unique problems. Why do some cities grow faster than others? Can cities ever get too dense or large? We will draw from typical urban economic models and frameworks, but will also discuss and test their limits when applying them to complex urban systems. For example, how well do these models address issues of segregation and informality in cities? The course will draw from research and scholarship in the field of urban economics, as well as actual cases, policy applications and guest lecturers employing these concepts in the field. Students who take this class will be able to use economic frameworks and methods to design, evaluate and implement planning and policy interventions in a range of urban settings.
This course assumes no previous coursework in economics and will require some, but not extensive, math and graphing. This course satisfies the economic methods requirement for GSD urban planning students and is open to cross-registrant students from other programs (including those from MIT).