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Urbanization as Opportunity

+ Brandon Fuller, Paul Romer

Abstract

The developing world already packs 2.6 billion people into its relatively dense cities. In 100 years, it could have three times as many urban residents. As their per capita income grows, they will they will also demand more land, perhaps twice as much per person as they do today. Governments can accommodate this increased demand either with a sixfold increase in the average built area of existing cities or with a combined strategy of expanding existing cities and developing entirely new cities. The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which guided a sevenfold increase in the built area of New York City, shows that a government can manage successful urban expansion on the required scale if it implements a plan that is narrow but strong. China’s development of Shenzhen shows that a government can use a new city to unleash systemic reform. The next few decades offer a unique opportunity to speed up progress by following these examples.

 

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Brandon Fuller is Deputy Director of the Marron Institute.

Paul Romer is a University Professor on leave from NYU. Romer was the co-recipient, with Yale's William Nordhaus, of the 2018 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Romer was the former Director of the Marron Institute and the founding director of the Urbanization Project at the Stern School of Business.

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