Dallas’ metropolitan GDP is roughly the size of Argentina’s economy. The GDP of New York is a few hundred billion dollars less than Canada’s. Chicago is likened to Switzerland, and so on, according to an Atlantic article. The growth of cities is somewhat predictable according to Professor Geoffrey West of the Santa Fe Institute. When West first analyzed the economic productivity of American cities, he and fellow researcher Bettencourt found that cities become more efficient as they grow. For example, as a city doubles in size, on virtually every measure of productivity —construction spending or bank deposits— measures of economic activity increase by approximately 15% per capita. (Perhaps this explains why certain types of firms overbuild and/or over-expand when they believe growth is go, go, go. They are ignoring these scaling laws.)
The expansion of cities leads to expanding economies. Ever-increasing urban growth is capturing the imaginations of academia and government. In early 2009, the White House established the first Office of Urban Affairs. There is much that policymakers, firms and planners can learn from the laws that govern the growth of cities. But the expansion of cities creates a tension between growth and resources. This story is much deeper and complex. What is the impact of innovation, knowledge sharing, and how people behave to threats and opportunities? How fast is life in the city moving?
This program is part of Series “D” focusing on development issues of developed and developing countries.