Our Work

The Urbanisation in Developing Countries programme produces academic papers, databases, background reports and presentations. With our work we aim to contribute to knowledge creation around the causes and consequences of differing patterns of urban growth.
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Location, Search Costs and Youth Unemployment: Experimental evidence from transport subsidies in Addis Ababa

15th Nov 2017, Submitted Paper

Author: Simon Franklin

This paper examines how labour market outcomes are affected by search costs. It looks at the effects of randomly assigend transport subsidies on jobs search intensity and the likelihood of finding good employment.

Economic Journal, R&R.

Subways and Urban Air Pollution

6th Jul 2017, Published Paper

Authors: Marco Gonzalez-Navarro, Matthew A. Turner

We investigate the relationship between the opening of a city’s subway network and its air quality. We find that particulate concentrations drop by about 4% in a 10km radius disk surrounding a city center during the year following a subway system opening. This reduction in particulates is larger nearer the city center, but extends over the whole metropolitan area. It persists over the longest time horizon that we can measure with our data, about eight years, although these estimates are less reliable further from the subway opening date. Our results also point to decreasing returns to subway expansions, both in terms of particulate reduction and ridership. Using estimates from the literature on the relationship between particulates and infant mortality suggests that each subway system provides an external mortality benefit of about $21m per year. This external benefit is about $594m per system per year if we consider mortality reduction effects for all city residents rather than just infants. Although available subway capital costs are crude, the estimated external mortality effects represent a significant fraction of construction costs.

Colonial legacies: Shaping African cities

22nd Jun 2017, Working Paper

Authors: Neeraj Baruah, Vernon Henderson, Cong Peng

Differential institutions imposed during colonial rule continue to affect the spatial structure and urban interactions in African cities. Based on a sample of 318 cities across 28 countries using satellite data on built cover over time, Anglophone origincities sprawl compared to Francophone ones. Anglophone cities have less intense landuse and more irregular layout in the older colonial portions of cities, and more leapfrog development at the extensive margin. Results are impervious to a border experiment, many robustness tests, measures of sprawl, and sub-samples. Why would colonial origins matter? The British operated under indirect rule and a dual mandate within cities, allowing colonial and native sections to develop without an overall plan and coordination. In contrast, integrated city planning and land allocation mechanisms were a feature of French colonial rule, which was inclined to direct rule. The results also have public policy relevance. From the Demographic and Health Survey, similar households which are located in areas of the city with more leapfrog development have poorer connections to piped water, electricity, and landlines, presumably because of higher costs of providing infrastructure with urban sprawl.

The Global Spatial Distribution of Economic Activity: Nature, History, and the Role of Trade

14th Mar 2017, Submitted Paper

Authors: Vernon Henderson, Tim Squires, Adam Storeygard, David Weil

This paper studies the distribution of economic activity, as proxied by lights at night, across 250,000 grid cells of average area 560 square kilometers.

Quarterly Journal of Economics (forthcoming)

Has Climate Change Promoted Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa?

2nd Jan 2017, Published Paper

Authors: Vernon Henderson, Adam Storeygard, Uwe Deichmann

This paper documents strong but differentiated links between climate and urbanization in large panels of districts and cities in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has dried substantially in the past fifty years.

Journal of Development Economics, 2017, 124,  60-82

Breaking into Tradables: Urban form and urban function in a developing city

14th Dec 2016, Submitted Paper

Author: Tony Venables

Many cities in developing economies, particularly in Africa, are experiencing ‘urbanisation without industrialisation’. This paper conceptualises this in a framework in which a city can produce non-tradable goods and – if it is sufficiently competitive – also internationally tradable goods, potentially subject to increasing returns to scale.

Urban Economics R&R

To Build Outward or Upward: The Spatial Pattern of Urban Land Development in China

12th Dec 2016, Working Paper

Authors: Zhi Wang, Qinghua Zhang, Li-An Zhou

This paper attempts to understand the patterns of urban land development in China from the political economy perspective. Our study is motivated by an interesting pattern observed in the past decade that in the initially more densely populated cities the urban land development was expanded more outwardly with a relatively low use intensity.

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