Day 1: Research Session – Cities

The research session on ‘Cities’ was chaired by Professor Vernon Henderson (LSE). First, Professor Adam Storeygard (Tufts University) presented his work on “50 years of urbanisation in Africa: Examining the role of climate change”. The paper discusses the effect of climate change on urbanisation in Africa. The sample includes data between 1960-2010 from 29 countries and 366 provinces across Sub-Saharan Africa. The study asks what are the local effects of a decline in moisture on district level urbanisation, local city incomes and rural occupational structures. The results of the study show that declining moisture increases migration to cities, increases local city incomes (in cities with a manufacturing base) and there is a shift away from agriculture. Ashish Vachchani (Ministry of Finance, Government of India) commented that the paper was very policy relevant. He suggested that the authors should consider doing a follow up study, which studies the effects of urbanisation on poverty, HIV/AIDS and gender disparities. Dr. Martina Kichberger (Columbia University) noted that climate change is a window of opportunity to accelerate migration to cities in Africa; and this will only be possible by boosting the manufacturing sector.

Thereafter, Professor Simon Alder (University of North Carolina) presented his work on “Chinese roads in India: The effect of transport infrastructure on economic development”. The paper investigates whether the golden quadrilateral (GQ) highway project in India benefited the regional economy, and how would India’s development trajectory be if it had transport infrastructure like China. The results show that the GQ project benefited the targeted areas, while other areas lagged behind and if the lagging areas were better connected (as in the China case), they would have experienced higher growth. Ashish Vachchani remarked that the government is in the process of building railways to connect the interior regions of India. Further, he noted that the cost of building highways in India is much higher than China, given the complicated and costly process of land acquisition in India.

Finally, Professor Marco Gonzalez-Navarro (University of Toronto) presented his ongoing work on “Subways and urban growth: Evidence from Earth” which aims to estimate the effects of subway networks on city size, population and spatial configuration. The study uses UN World Cities data from 1950-2010 of 632 large cities worldwide. Preliminary results show that the effects of subways in the sample are in line with the effects of building highways using US data.

By Noopur Abhishek, Country Economist, IGC India-Central