The Economics of Skyscrapers: A Synthesis

CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14987

68 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2020 Last revised: 16 Aug 2020

See all articles by Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt

Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Geography and Environment

Jason Barr

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers University, Newark

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Date Written: July 2020

Abstract

This paper provides a synthesis of the state of knowledge on the economics of skyscrapers. First, we document how vertical urban growth has gained pace over the course of the 20th century. Second, we lay out a simple theoretical model of optimal building heights in a competitive market to rationalize this trend. Third, we provide estimates of a range of parameters that shape the urban height profile along with a summary of the related theoretical and empirical literature. Fourth, we discuss factors outside the competitive market framework that explain the rich variation in building height over short distances, such as durability of the structures, height competition, and building regulations. Fifth, we suggest priority areas for future research into the vertical dimension of cities.

Keywords: density, economics, History, skyscraper, urban

JEL Classification: R3

Suggested Citation

Ahlfeldt, Gabriel M. and Barr, Jason, The Economics of Skyscrapers: A Synthesis (July 2020). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14987, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3650100

Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Geography and Environment ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://personal.lse.ac.uk/ahlfeldg/

Jason Barr

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Rutgers University, Newark ( email )

180 University Avenue
Newark, NJ 07102
United States

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