Skip to main content

Issues in Urban and Regional Economics (354-0-20)


Sidonia Lucrisha McKenzie

Meeting Info

Tech Institute Lecture Room 5: Mon, Wed, Fri 12:30PM - 1:50PM

Overview of class

This is an introduction to issues in urban and regional economics. We will study the problems of cities, urban areas, and regions by examining the effects of geographic location on the decisions of individuals and firms. The importance of location in everyday choices is readily seen in your decision to live on or off campus (or in a new professor's decision to live in Evanston or downtown Chicago). Yet, traditional economic models do not account for spatial factors. As urban economists, we will use the tools of economic theory and empirical data to explore several interesting questions along the dimensions of why we live in cities and how do regions develop. These questions include, but are not limited to: Why do cities and regions exist? How do firms decide where to locate? Why do people live in cities? What determines the growth and size of a city and region? What is the role of cities in regional development? We will then analyze the economic problems that arise because we live in urban areas. We will focus on specific urban issues such as firm location, housing, education, transportation costs, immigration, and local government policies. Time permitting, we will briefly explore issues related to crime, poverty, and housing bubbles. We will cover a few empirical papers in class that you are expected to read in advance. Typically, this will involve reading the abstract, introduction, and conclusion of the papers to get a general overview of the contribution, research question and methodological approach. We will analyze data using Stata or R and may also use ArcGIS, a digital mapping program.

Registration Requirements

ECON 281, ECON 310-1, ECON 310-2. Please review your notes from ECON 281, particularly classical (uni- and multi-variate) regression models.

Learning Objectives

The objective of this course is to: (i) introduce you to basic concepts and models of urban and regional economics; (ii) help develop your ability to analyze these concepts and apply them in and outside the classroom; (iii) improve your critical thinking (and hopefully creativity) about existing research on cities and regions and (iv) improve your ability to present complex research output in a clear and succinct way. My hope is that the topics covered in this course will stimulate your interests to further explore and develop research ideas of your own, either for a senior thesis (ECON 398 - Senior Seminar), independent study (ECON 399) or in graduate school.

Evaluation Method

The overall grade in this course will be based on: one midterm (15%), one final exam (25%), a class presentation (10%), four problem sets (40%) and one "Essay" (10%). The class presentation will depend on the class size. Students will be asked to present (in the style of a referee report- more on this will be explained in class) and lead the class discussion of one article. The "Essay" is really an abbreviated research proposal. The goal is to stimulate your curiosity to develop a potential empirical project that you would like to explore in the near future. It will be at most three pages, should include a main hypothesis/research question(s), brief overview of the relevant literature, description of potential data to be used, and empirical strategy that would best answer your hypothesis. More guidelines will be provided later. At least one of the four problem sets will involve the use of Stata. Also, at the end of every problem set I will ask you a couple questions that will help you think about a potential research idea based on the concepts covered in the problem set. I will give you feedback on your responses that will hopefully make it easier for you to write your "essay" towards the end of the quarter. This is completely optional (i.e. your responses will not be graded).

Class Materials (Required)

Curated lecture notes. Additional readings will be assigned to topics and listed in the syllabus.

Class Materials (Suggested)

The following texts are useful if you have further interests in studying urban and regional economics: Cities, Agglomeration and Spatial Equilibrium by Edward L. Glaeser, 2008, Oxford University Press, ISBN 13: 9780199290444 ; Competition in the Promised Land: Black Migrants in Northern Cities and Labor Markets by Leah Platt Boustan, 2016, Princeton University Press, ISBN13: 9780691150871 (I highly recommend this as a good book to add to your summer reading list!)

Class Attributes

SDG Sustnble Cities&Commnities

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Pre-requisite: Students must have taken ECON 310-1 or MMSS 211-1 and ECON 281 or ECON 381-1 or MATH 386-1 or IEMS 304 or STAT 350 to successfully enroll in this course.