Urban Economics Lab

The Urban Economics Lab at MIT focuses on studying economic activity and economic trends in cities. The Lab uses analytical models and big data to understand what makes cities thrive or decline, how housing values are formed and oscillate, and how local politics and social phenomena manifest in the context of increasing global urbanization. 

Latest News

2024 AREUEA National - Deadline Approaching

Professor Albert Saiz, First Vice President of the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, is organizing the 2024 National AREUEA conference. The conference is scheduled to be held in person on Thursday and Friday, May 30th and 31st, 2024, in Washington–DC.  The conference portal is open for paper submissions until February 1st, midnight EST.

More details at https://areuea.memberclicks.net/national

Working Paper - Immigration and Housing

How does the repatriation or expulsion of immigrants affect housing markets? 

Postdoctoral Associate Vinicios Sant'Anna's new working paper, "Send Them Back? The Real Estate Consequences of Repatriations," studies the impact of the 1930s Mexican repatriation to housing markets in the US. Using a novel automated matching technique to link houses across the 1930 and 1940 US Censuses, the paper shows that repatriating Mexicans during the Great Depression negatively affected US housing. The results suggest that repatriations have a long-lasting negative impact on housing wealth.

Read the paper.

Job Market Paper - Post-Pandemic Geography of Retail 

Job Market Candidate Binzhe Wang has published a new working paper titled "From Consumer Cities to Consumer Towns? The Post-Pandemic Geography of Retail in the U.S." The paper studies how the COVID-induced working-from-home (WFH) transition has altered local shopping patterns in the US. Using mobile-device foot traffic data in 1.7 million retail establishments in 5,296 cities and towns, she finds that total consumer foot traffic remained below pre-COVID levels, while the number of active stores was almost the same as that pre-COVID. Differences across cities were mostly driven by the re-location of jobs, pointing to the importance of job-shop trip chaining. However, recovery has lagged in cities with higher African-American population shares. These areas experienced a more significant decline in both store numbers and foot traffic volumes, even after accounting for factors such as WFH exposure, population size and location, and the availability of COVID relief loans.

Read the paper.

New Working Paper - Investment Decisions and Peers

Job Market Candidate and Research Scientist Simon Büchler has published a new working paper titled "On the value of market signals: Evidence from commercial real estate redevelopment." The paper studies how institutional commercial real estate investors adapt their investment decisions according to tangible localized information signals provided by other peer investors. Their findings suggest that when real estate investments signal the obsolescence of the existing stock, investors are willing to pay up to 30% more to acquire a property for redevelopment.

Read the paper.

New Working Paper - Big Data and Measurement

Professor Albert Saiz and Arianna Salazar Miranda have published a new article in the MIT CRE working paper series titled "Understanding Urban Economies, Land Use, and Social Dynamics in the City: Big Data and Measurement." The paper presents an overview of big data sources used in urban science and urban economics, with the goal of directing and enriching future research. Read the paper.