Spring 2024
SUP 680
January 22 - April 26
Monday and Wednesday, 12:00PM - 1:15PM
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Urban Economic Policy


This course examines the economics of place. We study cities in their role as engines of modern economies. Urban areas attract workers seeking jobs, firms pursuing access to markets, consumers wanting an abundant variety of goods and services, and families searching for schools and community. Urban density yields important economic benefits by making workers more productive while on the job and providing them with greater leisure opportunities while at play. Yet, city residents must also contend with traffic congestion, expensive housing, unequal access to opportunity, and exposure to disease. The balance of these urban pull-and-push factors, together with competition between cities for capital and labor, creates a hierarchy of urban places, in which a few large cities tend to dominate the economic landscape, as well as substantial inequality within cities. Over time, technological advance, globalization, government policy, and climate change perturb these hierarchies, moving cities up and down the ladder of economic prosperity, while often perpetuating disadvantage. In part one of the course, we examine the economic forces that drive urban growth, induce industries to concentrate geographically, and cause some communities to flourish and others to stagnate. In part two of the course, we consider policies to address affordable housing, urban sprawl, traffic congestion, regional economic divides, persistent joblessness, climate change, and informal settlements. The course emphasizes data analytic approaches to urban economic policy and involves a mix of traditional lectures, and in-class case studies and policy debates.

HKS Government
Harvard Kennedy School
Course Level
Interest Area
Law & Policy
Cross Registration