News & Events

Working Paper - Natural Barriers and Urban Connectivity

How does the presence of natural barriers influence transportation environments and urban densities across the globe?

This paper introduces three novel indexes: the share of natural barriers, non-convexity (a measure of natural fragmentation), and the average road detour, to measure and study the practical reach and effects of natural barriers around global cities. It calculates these indexes for areas in and around four separate global city-boundary definitions, augmenting the original data with relevant additional variables. 

Natural barriers lead to more complex transportation environments and are associated with higher urban densities, smaller urbanized footprints, taller buildings, and less pollution, but also with lower incomes and smaller populations. To draw meaningful policy conclusions, comparative research about environmental, economic, and social outcomes across global cities should always account for their surrounding geographies.

Read the paper.

New Lab Members

 The Urban Economics Lab (UEL) welcomes two new members! KC Hardin and Henry Pollakowski are now Research Affiliates to the lab. KC is the chief executive officer and co-founder of the real estate development company Conservatorio. Henry is a distinguished housing and urban economist whose extensive body of work has been published in leading journals across the fields of economics, finance, and real estate. Currently, Henry is editor of the Journal of Housing Economics.

We welcome our new lab members, KC Hardin (left) and Henry Pollakowski (right).

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

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.

Working Paper - Investment Decisions and Peers

Research Scientist Simon Büchler, and co-authors have 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.

Professor Albert Saiz presents at the CRED-MIT Workshop on Real Estate Economics

Professor Albert Saiz was in Bern, Switzerland, at the CRED-MIT Workshop on Real Estate Economics, giving a keynote speech about his recent paper "The Global Housing Affordability Crisis: Policy Options and Strategies." The event took place at the University of Bern, Switzerland, on August 8. Organized by Simon Buechler (MIT), the workshop aimed to stimulate the exchange of ideas among researchers and industry, contributing to understanding the current challenges in the real estate market.

Link to the paper:

Urban Economics Lab participation in the 2023 AREUEA National

Three members of the Urban Economics Lab participated in the 2023 AREUEA National Conference in Washington DC. Professor Albert Saiz (UEL's PI and Second Vice President of the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association), Vinicios Sant'Anna (Postdoctoral Associate), and Elena Lutz (Research Associate) participated in this amazing conference, which brings together policymakers, academics, and real estate practitioners to present and discuss the latest research in urban economics and real estate. See the Conference agenda (here).

Arianna Salazar Miranda Career Update

We are thrilled to announce that our lab's researcher, Arianna Salazar Miranda, has completed her Ph.D. and is joining the School of the Environment at Yale University in 2024. Before that, she will be a postdoctoral fellow at the MIT Senseable City Lab and the University of Chicago. Congratulations!

Check out her exciting portfolio of work here:

New Working Paper - Housing Affordability Crisis and Policy Options and Strategies

How to address the global housing affordability crisis? Professor Albert Saiz's latest working paper outlines the tradeoffs between different housing policy objectives of the government and the public while discussing their main caveats and advantages. The paper describes thirty different economic strategies underpinning housing policies worldwide and discusses their main advantages and caveats. Read the paper.

Urban Economics Lab is on Twitter

The MIT Urban Economics Lab is now also on Twitter. Follow us on @MIT_uelab for information on the lab's latest research, news, opportunities, & more! 

Albert Saiz Participates in National Conference about Housing and Real Estate in Mexico  

Professor Albert Saiz, participated in the 31st National Conference "Desarrollando El México Del Futuro", in Mérida, Yucatán. The conference joined an outstanding group of panelists including policymakers, academics, and industry representatives to discuss the challenges, and the innovative, affordable, and sustainable solutions that will transform the housing industry in Mexico.

Albert Saiz Elected 2nd Vice President of AREUEA 

Professor Albert Saiz, was elected as the Second Vice President of American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association (AREUEA). AREUEA is the leading academic association supporting and promoting quality real estate & urban economics research across the world. The election of its officials and board members is highly competitive. This is a testament to Albert’s intellectual leadership and excellent reputation in our academic community of real estate and urban economics. Congratulations!