(2007-04-18) Urban Growth Benefits

A new study confirms the benefits of Urbanization. What they found were some general correlations of size and resource consumption that more or less fit the biological organism metaphor, meaning as the city grew in size it required less energy (resources) to sustain it (Energy Accounting) in a proportion called Sub Linear scaling (Economies Of Scale). What was surprising to the team was when they measured Creative output (jobs, wealth generated, innovation) as cities grew (City Size), the scaling of this output was not sublinear, but Super Linear, meaning as the city grew its creative output grew faster and faster... Oftentimes, cities are referred to as its own EcoSystem and many use the metaphor of it acting like a biological organism, Lobo said. But the team found that this was a false Metaphor. "The one thing that we know about organisms whether it be elephants or sharks or frogs, is that as they get large, they slow down," Lobo said. "They use less energy, they don't move as fast. That is a very important point for biological scaling." "In the case of cities, it is actually the opposite," he added. "As cities get larger they create more wealth and they are more innovative at a faster rate. There is no counterpart to that in biology." Authors: Jose Lobo; Luis Bettencourt of Los Alamos National Laboratory, LosAlamos, New Mex.; Dirk Helbing and Christian Kuhnert of Dresden University of Technology, Germany; and Geoffrey West of the Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mex.

Paper from 2010.

Jul2012: Wendell Cox notes

  • they're talking about City Size not Population Density
  • the Unit of analysis is the City Region, not the Urban core. West et al look at cities as "integrated economic and social units," at the "level of metropolitan statistical areas (MSA-s); in the European Union, larger urban zones (LUZs); and in China, urban administrative units... New York City is a good, example, as headquarters to the national media, a world class city and as urban as it gets in the United States. But the New York Metropolitan Area, the "integrated economic and social unit" is not Manhattan or even five boroughs. It stretches from a bit west of Blooming Grove Township, in Pike County 25 miles west of Port Jervis, a city 90 miles from Manhattan located in western Orange County, NY, to Montauk Point in Suffolk County and from north of West Point, in Putnam County to Egg Harbor Township, in Ocean County, New Jersey (that's nearly 30 miles south of Toms River). Suffice it to say most of this vast region is not dense at all."

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