Incorporating More Economics into Urban and Regional Planning

49 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2013 Last revised: 6 Sep 2014

Date Written: April 18, 2013


Urban renewal studies are informative in many respects but most contain surprisingly little economic analysis. Academic works in urban economics, aimed at developing models that explain the urban patterns that have unfolded, do not seem to deal with how to most efficiently achieve the political, sociological or cultural objectives sought by communities at many points in time. Urban renewal reports ignore consideration of the tradeoffs between economic efficiency and non-economic objectives and do not discuss any differences in economic costs that might be attributable to the use of certain measures rather than others to achieve other-than-economic ends. This paper attempts to provide guidelines for altering this, and includes findings of behavioral economics that may help explain a good deal of what has transpired in the implementation of urban planning.

The paper begins by outlining three notable urban planning successes. The first is that of Curitiba, Brazil, which began as an effort to upgrade a deteriorating transportation system and improve the general livability of the community, and continued, as the region's economy was seriously threatened, with objectives emphasizing employment creation and the alleviation of environmental problems. The second case is that of Participatory Budgeting and Porto Alegre, Brazil. The third is that of Portland, Oregon which can be characterized as having aimed broadly at trying to improve the quality of life, also with an increased input from local citizens.

The next-to-last section evaluates the conclusions of a well known urban planner's findings based on the experience of a large number of communities internationally. The final section draws on the evidence outlined to offer a set of guidelines for incorporating more economics into urban and regional planning.

Keywords: Urban and regional planning, behavioral economics

JEL Classification: R1

Suggested Citation

Schwartz, Hugh H., Incorporating More Economics into Urban and Regional Planning (April 18, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Hugh H. Schwartz (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

APT 1004
ALEXANDRIA, VA 22303-2519
United States

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