Economics of Urban Form

The Geographic Determinants of Housing Supply
This paper focuses on processing satellite-generated data on terrain elevation and presence of waterbodies to precisely estimate the amount of developable land in U.S. metropolitan areas. The data show that residential development is effectively curtailed by the presence of steep-sloped terrain. I also find that most areas in which housing supply is regarded as inelastic are severely land-constrained by their geography. Econometrically, supply elasticities can be well characterized as functions of both physical and regulatory constraints, which in turn are endogenous to prices and demographic growth. Geography is a key factor in the contemporaneous urban development of the United States.
Are workers efficiently lined up with jobs in urban space?
The polycentric nature of urban spatial structure has been satisfactorily explained by theories and empirical studies in the urban economics literature. If the equilibrium configuration of decentralization is true, we would observe shorter commutes in a dispersed city than in a concentrated city. Then, from the normative standpoint, we might have to shape our cities as polycentric to minimize commuting in urban economic activities. The existing literature, however, provides conflicting arguments on the relationship between employment dispersal and commuting behavior within metropolitan areas. The urban spatial structure also has implications for labor market outcomes. Even if the co-location hypothesis works in the decentralized urban space, it might make it more difficult for people to change jobs because they have to relocate to a different place to live. On the other hand, if every job is in the center, people do not need to change their place of residence as frequently as they change their place of work. The objective of this project is twofold. The first phase of the research is to create an index of employment dispersal for each metropolitan area in the Unites States. In line with the historical context of urban development of the transition from monocentric to multicentric, the project develops the metric to reflect both centrality and local accessibility of cities using the Census’ block-level employment data. Then, the question is whether or not employment dispersal affects commuting and labor market activities. Are workers efficiently lined up with jobs in urban space? If jobs and people are dispersed, is job switching easier or more difficult? We expect that this project will shed light on understanding how well and in which direction employment decentralization explains economic activities in our cities.