Cities that Work

Cities that Work is a new IGC initiative that builds on our work to translate economic research and practical insight into clear urban policy guidance.

Policymakers across the developing world are at a critical juncture, where well-implemented, evidence-based urban policies have the potential to unlock a process of sustainable economic growth that can rapidly lift millions out of poverty.

A new body of economic research and data is enhancing our understanding of the policy choices which shape this process. This research must be harnessed for practical application, providing clear policy solutions to the pressing issues governments face surrounding rapid urbanisation.

Cities that Work combines new evidence and analysis of urban economics with the hard-won knowledge of urban planning practitioners and policymakers. Our aim is to develop a policy-focused synthesis of research, and a global ‘network’ of individuals with a shared vision for urban policy.

Research results and the practical knowledge of practitioners and policymakers are synthesised and presented in a manner that can inform decision making in five key areas:

1) Urban land use
2) Urban infrastructure and public service provision
3) Housing
4) Firm development and employment in cities
5) City finances

Cities that Work will also bring together current knowledge on the governance structures or “authorising environments” to facilitate effective urban policymaking across these five areas

What we are reading:

  • Growth brief: Making cities work for development – Tony Venables analyses the potential of cities in the developing world and the interventions required to achieve this potential.
  • Growth brief: Contagion, crime, and congestion – overcoming the downsides of density – Ed Glaeser and Helen Dempster outline why contagion, crime, and congestion are so important to the prosperity of cities and discuss ways to tackle them, providing useful lessons for policymakers.
  • African urbanisation: An analytic policy guide – Paul Collier on cities as engines of growth, and the necessary ingredients for different types of scale and specialisation.
  • Urbanisation without industrialisation – Douglas Gollin, Rémi Jedwab and Dietrich Vollrath explore how the historical link between urbanisation and industrialisation in Western and East Asian economies no longer applies in many low-income countries. Instead these countries have seen the rise of ‘consumption cities’ rather than ‘production cities’ based on natural resource rents.
  • Property rights and investment in urban slums – Erica Field studies how the strengthening of property rights in the urban slums of Peru, through large-scale issuance of freehold land titles, leads to increased investments in housing.
  • Housing and urbanisation in Africa: Unleashing a formal market process – Paul Collier and Tony Venables discuss the need for coordinated public policy to address interrelated constraints to affordable urban housing.
  • Infrastructure, incentives and institutions – research by Nava Ashraf, Edward Glaeser and Giacomo Ponzetto demonstrates how massive infrastructural investments in water and sanitation need to be accompanied by appropriate incentives in order to encourage households to connect to newly installed piped networks.
  • The political economy of property tax reform – Enid Slack and Richard Bird examine the political and economic challenges of property tax reform, and outline promising approaches for success – including linking these taxes to public services – with case studies from five OECD countries.