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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Essays on the Economics of Space

  • Author(s): Bunten, Devin
  • Advisor(s): Kahn, Matthew E
  • et al.

These essays contribute towards our understanding of the economics of space. This dissertation is composed of three chapters.

Chapter one—Is the rent too high? Aggregate implications of local land- use regulation: Highly productive U.S. cities are characterized by high housing prices, low housing stock growth, and restrictive land-use regulations (e.g., San Francisco). While new residents would benefit from housing stock growth due to higher incomes or shorter commutes, existing residents justify strict local land-use regulations on the grounds of congestion and other costs of further development. This paper assesses the welfare implications of these local regulations for income, congestion, and urban sprawl within a general equilibrium model with endogenous regulation. In the model, households choose from locations that vary exogenously by productivity and endogenously according to local externalities of congestion and sharing. Existing residents address these externalities by voting for regulations that limit local housing density. In equilibrium, these regulations bind and house prices compensate for differences across locations. Relative to the planner's optimum, the decentralized model generates spatial misallocation whereby high-productivity locations are settled at too-low densities. The model admits a straightforward calibration based on observed population density, expenditure shares on consumption and local services, and local incomes. Welfare and GDP would be 1.4% and 2.1% higher, respectively, under the planner??Ễs allocation. Abolishing zoning regulations entirely would increase GDP by 6%, but lower welfare by 5.9% due to greater congestion.

Chapter two—The impact of emerging climate risks on urban real estate price dynamics: In the typical asset market, an asset featuring uninsurable idiosyn- cratic risk must offer a higher rate of return to compensate risk-averse investors. A home offers a standard asset’s risk and return opportunities, but it also bundles access to its city’s amenities??Ẻand to its climate risks. As climate change research reveals the true nature of these risks, how does the equilibrium real estate pricing gradient change when households can sort into different cities? When the population is homogeneous, the real estate pricing gradient instantly reflects the “new news”. With population heterogene- ity, an event study research design will underestimate the valuation of climate risk for households in low-risk cities while overestimating the valuation of households in high-risk areas.

Chapter three—Entrepreneurship, Information, and Growth: We examine the contribution to economic growth of entrepreneurial marketplace information within a regional endogenous growth framework. Entrepreneurs are posited to provide an input to economic growth through the information revealed by their successes and failures. We empirically identify this information source with the regional variation in establishment births and deaths. To account for the potential endogeneity caused by forward-looking entrepreneurs, we utilize instruments based on historic mining activity. We find that the information spillover component of local establishment birth and death rates have significant positive effects on subsequent entrepreneurship and employment growth for U.S. counties and metropolitan areas. A version of this article was previously published in the Journal of Regional Science as Bunten et al. (2015).

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