What Economics Can Teach Us About Cities

Tony Venables

Do bigger cities make better cities? Empirical studies have shown that doubling a city’s population size often correlates with significantly higher productivity. However, this has yet to be seen in cities of developing countries, where urbanisation rates have increased rapidly in the last two decades. To kickstart the New Urban Literacies series for Hilary Term, we apply the tools of economic analysis to examine the conditions that enable cities to reap the benefits of proximity, density and scale. Based on his research of African cities, Professor Tony Venables will share some insights on the opportunities that urban regions in developing countries can offer, and the challenges that persist. In doing so, this lecture uncovers what it takes to build cities that are liveable, sustainable, and economically viable.

Economics, particularly spatial economics, provides a powerful lens through which to view the city. Further, as urbanisation happens at at an ever-increasing pace in parts of the developing world, spatial economics could serve as one important tool for coping with - and harnessing - the city's properties of scale and density to bring about economic, social, and perhaps even ecological wellbeing.

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Dr. Tony Venables is a Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford where he also directs the Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies (OxCarre). He is part of the Research Centre on Urbanisation in Developing Countries, and is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Econometric Society. Former positions include Chief Economist at the UK Department for International Development, and advisor to the UK Treasury. He has published extensively in the areas of international trade and spatial economics, including the book The spatial economy; cities, regions and international trade, with M. Fujita and P. Krugman (MIT Press, 1999).