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Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs 2000 (2000) ix-xiv

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Editors' Summary

Two broad premises have guided the development of the Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs. First, in recent years, the economic and social challenges of urban development have become increasingly significant. These challenges are associated with the enormous and long-term shift of population and employment from city to suburb and from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West. Some of the major problems include economic decline in older cities; the interrelationships between urban development and crime, family structure, concentrated poverty, education, and employment; the erosion of urban tax bases; relationships between cities and suburbs; urban sprawl; and environment and transportation. Some of these problems can also be found in older suburban areas. Rapidly developing areas face some of the same issues and are trying to avoid others where possible. Because these problems are ubiquitous, and in many cases may be expected to become more severe over time, scholars and policymakers may be expected to devote increased attention and resources to these issues in the future.

Second, urban areas also face positive opportunities, including those created by radically changing technologies in communications, transportation, electronic commerce, and biotechnology. These developments could help provide solutions for problems in both older and more recently developed urban areas. They also provide new sources for growth and productivity improvement in older slow-growing urban areas, and the extension of growth and development to new areas. Many observers believe such technologies provide the key to the revival of older urban areas; others think they sound their death knell and will reinforce both suburbanization and the continued decline of older cities, as well as the continued movement of population and economic activity south and west. [End Page ix]

These problems and opportunities create difficult intellectual challenges. The matters are often intertwined to a degree not found in other fields. Devising solutions to problems and developing ways to take advantage of opportunities for welfare-enhancing urban development may well require new data, new theory, and thinking that cuts across conventional disciplinary lines. The shortage of clear and systematic thinking on these issues and the lack of interplay between scholars and policymakers are serious obstacles to the implementation of effective urban research and policy development.

This journal aims to help fill the void. A central goal of the journal is to bring together scholars working on traditional urban problems, a broad range of scholars working in related fields with implications for urban areas, and policymakers. Many economists and researchers in other fields are currently working on subjects with important urban implications--poverty, education, health, transportation, employment, taxation, productivity, and other issues--but frequently do not identify their work as contributing to, or benefiting from, urban research. Thus another goal of the Brookings-Wharton papers is to help bring new ideas and new analysts into the urban arena by integrating this broader research into the urban-policy discussion.

The six papers in this inaugural volume exemplify these goals. The papers were presented at a conference held at the Brookings Institution on October 7 and 8, 1999, and attended by approximately forty-five scholars and policymakers. The papers are divided into two sets: a symposium on the past and future of urban research and policy, and general research papers on several urban or urban-related topics.

The symposium is an effort to take stock of the state of urban research and policy as this new journal is launched. Edwin Mills provides a thematic history of the development and achievements of urban economics over the past fifty years, and discusses the major unsolved and underresearched questions. John Quigley examines and evaluates the evolution of federal policy toward housing and urban development. Edward Glaeser sets out an ambitious future research agenda for urban economics, focusing specifically on the role of nonmarket interactions. Taken together, the symposium papers provide complementary and comprehensive views of where urban economics and policy have been and where they ought to be heading.

The other papers in the volume address important aspects of the urban...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. ix-xiv
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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