Economics 316
Urban Economics

Fall 2015
MW 8:30-9:50 A.M. PAC 107

Professor Joyce Jacobsen
Offices: PAC 332, NC 319
Phone: 860-685-2357 (o), 860-685-2010 (Megan Flagg, assistant), 860-836-6022 (cell)
Office hours: available by appointment

General Course Information

Purpose: This course uses economic methods and perspectives to analyze urban issues. The first part of the course has a more theoretical focus; the second part a more empirical and applied focus. Topics covered include how and why cities arise and develop, how their growth or decline is affected by various events, and how land prices are determined. Policy areas studied in the second part of the course include regional development and zoning, housing programs and regulations, anti-poverty programs, local public finance, development of transportation systems, education, and crime. One goal of the course is for you to understand current research and policy debates in the area of urban economics issues and to formulate coherent positions on the topics covered. Another goal is for you to understand how research is done in this field of economics.  To achieve the former goal, we will attempt to develop stronger analytical skills, building on the base of economics and other social science courses that you have previously taken.  We will also try to hold discussions during class meetings so that people can practice articulating their positions.  To achieve the latter goal, each student will undertake a term paper project that will involve some level of original research, as well as requiring the student to read some economics and/or public policy articles.  Students will give short presentations on their projects as they evolve.

Structure: The course will be a combination of lecture and seminar/discussion.  We will do a variety of things in class, including having structured and unstructured discussions, working short problems in small groups, and watching some short videos. I will announce reading assignments as the course progresses, and they may evolve in response to students' interests.  We will also meet for individual conferences regarding your progress in the course and your term paper.  Please ask questions as they arise. I encourage you to comment on the level, pace, and content of the course as it progresses. In particular, feel free to contact me by email.

Readings: The required text is O'Sullivan, Urban Economics, any edition. Specific reading assignments from the text will be given as the course progresses.  Additional short items will occasionally be handed out in class. You will probably have to do additional reading for your term paper.

Honor Code: All work handed in must be your own and done for this course only. This does not mean that you must refrain from discussing questions with other students as an aid to understanding the material, but it does preclude copying other students' work. You are expected to discourage such behavior on the part of others. This distinction is generally clear enough to make in practice; when in doubt, please discuss it with me.

Assignments and Grades: There will be a midterm exam, a term paper (15-20 pages), and a final exam.  Review sheets for the exams and instructions for the paper will be loaded into the template below (as pdfs) when available.  Class participation, consisting of attendance, active participation in class discussions, and completion of various short exercises during class, counts towards your course grade.

Due date and time
  Weight in course grade
Class participation all days!
discussion questions from 9/14/15
discussion questions from 9/21/15
discussion questions from 9/28/15
discussion questions from 10/5/15
discussion questions for 10/12/15
discussion questions for 10/14/15
discussion questions for 11/4/15
discussion questions for 11/9/15
discussion questions for 11/16/15
discussion questions for 11/18/15
discussion questions for 11/30/15
discussion questions for 12/2/15
discussion questions for 12/9/15
Midterm exam
here are the essay questions
here is an old exam
here is an older exam
Wed. Oct. 21
Topic and outline for term paper
handout re term paper
paper topics
Fri. Nov. 13, 6 pm
Term paper
here are some sample abstracts
Wed. Dec. 9, 6 pm (automatic extension to Tues. Dec. 15, 6 pm)
Final exam
here are the essay questions
here is an old exam
here is an older exam
Wed. Dec. 16, 9 am - noon

Research Leads: 
evidence on MAR-Porter-Jacobs externalities: knowledge spillover (wikipedia), Knowledge Spillovers and Who's Right;
evidence on central place theory and rank-size distributions: rank-size distribution (wikipedia), Snohomish County Central Place Hierarchy Patterns, Suburbanization and the Rank-Size Rule, Zipf's Law for Cities, Zipf Zipped, The City Size Distribution Debate;
evidence on local economic growth and growth incentives: Daimler v. Cuno case, Bidding for Industrial Plants, Identifying Agglomeration Spillovers
article on Nebraska-area arena
evidence on bid-rent curves: The Inversion of the Land Gradient in Haifa, The Center Restored, Apartment Rents and Locations in Portland, Cities without Land Markets
urban planning:  cities: how they grow (video), Kelo v. City of New London
futuristic ideas:  Elon Musk on cars, Moller skycar
transportation:  sky taxis, the american road (video)
innovations (part 1; mine):  npr cities project page; cohousing; a woonerf in Toronto; transport-oriented development in Evanston; car-banning in Oslo; bicycle city
innovations (part 2; students): Google Sidewalk Labs NYC free wireless hubs, Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, Array of Things, cogeneration, floating homes and amphibious housing, uniform suits;
road electrification, smog-guzzling buildings, automated parking, urban farming, bike sharing, see/click/fix, underground garbage disposal centers, crowdfunding urban improvments, car sharing;
hitch-a-ride, compact furniture, living in a dumpster, vertical farming, congestion killer, Detroit future city program, urban transport pods, Tokyo's underground high-tech bike parking

Course-Related Links
    RFE : Resources for Economists on the Internet The most comprehensive guide to economics related information on the web
    Open Directory Project : another comprehensive directory containing useful links and resources for Urban Economics
          World Gazetteer : contains useful lists of population for countries, administrative divisions, & cities

          Geography.About.Com : has maps as well as lists of the largest cities in historical times

          The Connecticut Economy : quarterly publication from UConn; many articles and stats on urban econ topics for CT

          Racial Residential Segregation Measurement Project:  segregation indexes available for subsections of the US (2000)

Maps that we will look at in class :

Connecticut; New England; Indiana; Spain;
list of cities in Indiana; list of metropolitan areas in Spain
Washington; Oregon; California

Relevant U.S. Government Sites :
Relevant Thinktank Sites :
Relevant Sites Maintained by Professional Organizations :
Relevant Sites Maintained by Individuals :

  • Robert Reynolds of Reed College has a fun (and comprehensive) webpage containing information (and maps) on subway and light rail systems around the world, and other transportation-related information
  • Joanna Cagan and Neil Demause have an interesting webpage presenting their research on schemes behind sports welfare , including updated news on sport facility building, and more information about sports and corporate welfare 

To My Home Page

 To Wesleyan Department of Economics Home Page

To Wesleyan University Home Page