Urban Economics and Urban Policy
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Urban Economics and Urban Policy

Challenging Conventional Policy Wisdom

Paul C. Cheshire, Max Nathan and Henry G. Overman

In this bold, exciting and readable volume, Paul Cheshire, Max Nathan and Henry Overman illustrate the insights that recent economic research brings to our understanding of cities, and the lessons for urban policy-making. The authors present new evidence on the fundamental importance of cities to economic wellbeing and to the enrichment of our lives. They also argue that many policies have been trying to push water uphill and have done little to achieve their stated aims; or, worse, have had unintended and counterproductive consequences.
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Chapter 2: Urban economic performance

Paul C. Cheshire, Max Nathan and Henry G. Overman


As is well known, for the first time in history more than half of the world's population is now living in cities (UN Population Division 2010). But this apparently relentless global trend hides a much more nuanced picture for the world's more developed urban systems that are the broad focus of this book. As a closer look at the data makes clear, long-term urbanisation rates are broadly stable for more developed countries. But within many of these countries, the experience is one of recent urban resurgence after a long period of relative decline. Even then, this resurgence is often profoundly uneven within the urban system. Some cities are experiencing population growth and improved economic performance, especially those that have proved attractive to higher skilled workers or to industries that employ those workers: London and New York provide the premier examples. Other cities, particularly small industrial cities in the shadow of relatively more successful cities, continue to stagnate or decline. The experiences of Sunderland compared to Newcastle, or Charleroi relative to Brussels, provide good examples (Buck et al. 2004; Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 2006). These disparities in urban economic performance have proved persistent and seemingly resistant to policymakers' attempts to reduce them. Clearly, understanding urban economic performance is central to improving our understanding of spatial disparities and the impact of policy.

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