Urban Development: patterns, causes, foundations, and policy

Conference 13 and 14 December 2010

Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), Erasmus University Rotterdam
Utrecht University (Department of Economics and Faculty of Geosciences)

Download the Programme of the Conference.

Register for this conference through the link below. Participation is free.


Michael Storper, London School of Economics
Charles van Marrewijk, Utrecht University School of Economics
Frank van Oort, Utrecht University Faculty of Geosciences

IHS organizer
Ronald Wall
, Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies

Special issue

A selection of papers presented and discussed at the workshop will be published as a special issue of the Journal of Regional Science, edited by the organizers, subject to a standard referee procedure. Similarly, a selection of papers will be eligible for publication in Regional Studies, subject to a standard referee procedure.


Urban Development: Patterns, Causes, Foundations, and Policy
  Monday 13 December 2010    
  time speaker co-authors title
  08:45-09:30 Registration and coffee  
  09:30-09:45 Introduction by Kees van Rooijen (director IHS)
    Opening Frank van Oort  
  Chair Charles van Marrewijk  
  09:45-10:30 Ron Boschma Frank Neffke How do regions diversify over time?
      Martin Henning  
  10:30-11:15 Ronald Wall Martijn Burger

The Geography of Global Corporate Networks:
The Poor, the Rich and the Happy Few Countries

Tables & Images

      Frank van Oort  
  11:15-11:45 coffee    
  11:45-12:45 Janet Bercovitz Maryann Feldman Entrepreneurism and the mechanisms of collaboration
  12:45-13:45 lunch    
  Chair Michael Storper    
  13:45-14:30 Steven Brakman Harry Garretsen The Border Effect of EU Integration:
Evidence for European Cities and Regions
      Charles van Marrewijk  
      Abdella Oumer  
  14:30-15:15 Hernan Rozenfeld Diego Rybski The Area and Population of Cities: New Insights from a Different Perspective on Cities
      Xavier Gabaix  
      Hernan Makse  
  15:15-15:45 coffee    
  15:45-16:45 Sukkoo Kim Marc Law History, institutions, and cities: a view from the Americas
  Tuesday 14 December 2010    
  time speaker co-authors title
  08:45-09:00 Registration    
  Chair Ronald Wall    
  09:00-09:45 Meine Pieter van Dijk The contribution of cities to economic development: explanation based on Chinese cities
  09:45-10:30 Raymond Florax Thomas de Graaff Sectoral differences in urban concentration
      Frank van Oort  
  10:30-11:00 coffee    
  11:00-12:00 Simona Iammarino Elisabetta Marinelli Is the grass greener on the other side of the fence?
  12:00-12:45 Harry Garretsen Ron Martin Recessionary Shocks and Regional Employment:
Evidence on the Resilience of UK Regions
      Bernard Fingleton  
  12:45-13:45 lunch    
  Chair Frank van Oort    
  13:45-14:45 Michael Storper Tom Kemeny Amenities, Specialization, Institutions: What Explains US Metropolitan Income Levels?
  14:45-15:30 Philip McCann   Agglomeration, networks and the fundamentals of EU cohesion policy
  15:30-16:00 Closing remarks by Ronald Wall  
  16:00 drinks    



Urban development: patterns, causes, foundations, and policy

Urban development is not evenly distributed among cities, and often not stable over time. In interpreting urban development, several types of explanations are suggested in spatial economic disciplines. Some models are more detailed and applied than others – this workshop discusses the value and implications of models by determining their ability to actually describe and predict urban growth patterns, causes, shifts and shocks. To do this, the micro foundations and conceptual and analytical discourses of several types of models are discussed and compared on a solid theoretical and empirical foundation.

Classical models emphasize long-term, regular and path-dependent development. Models describing the nature and degree of urban concentrations, like Zipf, bell-shapes and other regularities models, are numerous but seem limited in applicability to individual cities. New Economic Geography models introduced agglomerating and dispersing factors for economic activities. Agglomerating effects, where firms are locating close to large markets, are fuelled by mechanisms of market access and minimizing transport costs of firms, benefits of producers and consumers of varieties in cities and the cost of living effect, where consumers minimize transport costs. Dispersing effects are caused by market crowding (firms trying to escape competition), housing costs and congestion. Evolutionary economic geography models hypothesize that urban and regional systems move down pathways, after “branching points” that are mostly technological in character. This more geographically embedded branch of theories focuses on concepts like technological change and lock-in; thresholds in transport and transaction costs; amenity shocks and their causes; and the influence of major political events. In the workshop we want to investigate what are modelling strategies for possibly reconciling these strands of research.

The workshop will have special attention for the issue of causality in this discussion. There are debates about how to model causal forces in location and urban development. Nowadays, formal modelling does not seem to be possible without proper dealing with causality and endogeneity. This touches on the micro foundations of urban economic development. Again, different conceptual approaches contribute to our understanding of causality in urban development. “New neoclassical” approaches use a spatial indifference function for firms (and other agents, too), while geographers mostly consider this fundamentally wrong, especially for innovative, early in the product cycle and skill intensive activities. This makes one wonder what the temporal sequences and causal hierarchies in urban development are, and which factors do matter more than others. An ever actual question in this respect is whether firm location “precedes” – temporally and causally – household choices, or the other way around. This underlies the fundamental question: do “people go to jobs” or “jobs go to people?” – assuming that we are not satisfied with perfectly simultaneous, all-direction causality. Other causalities that are often taken for granted can be questioned, like clustering, variety and agglomeration. Growing cities might attract more and a varied number of firms and functions than other cities, actually reversing causality on this issue. The same applies to innovation, creativity and housing issues in relation to urban development.

A body of literature on new industrial districts (NIDs) and collective learning emerged. The research is primarily inward looking, detailing how clusters and learning regions develop, operate and prosper (or fail). As the approaches differ from geographical economics, it is at times difficult to compare models and research outcomes but there are common features that allow cross-fertilization. External economies play a key role in all, which include non-traded interdependencies such as common services organized by joint action, norms and standards and the importance of trust and social embeddedness of networks. These attribute to a (non-tradable) territorially specific asset, a localized capability, fostered by localised economic governance. We need to study their relative importance for explaining growing agglomerations and the specific forms of governance stimulating growth.

Practical Information

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