Archives for urbanization



Why My Favorite American Cities Have a Chinatown

Relatives from South Africa were visiting and we got to talking about which cities to visit in America. I shared my list: San Francisco, New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Seattle, and Philadelphia. Each city has a Chinatown. Coincidence? Or maybe the connection is just that I like Chinese food. Indeed, our family has been going to a favorite dim-sum restaurant most every week since moving to Boston seven years ago.

Then the larger connection came to me. Chinatowns were made by Chinese laborers building the railroads (when the laborers had finished this vast public-works program, the Chinese Exclusion Act barred most Chinese from emigration to or citizenship of the United States). Having a Chinatown marks a city as of the railroad era, built up before the wide deployment of the automobile. As Lewis Mumford said, “The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is actually the right to destroy the city.” Cities with Chinatowns had enough roots to escape carmageddon. Read More »



Introducing “AI: Adventures in Ideas,” a New Blog Series from Sudhir Venkatesh. Episode 1: Going Solo

This is the first installment of a new Freakonomics.com feature from Sudhir Venkatesh.  Each AI: Adventures in Ideas post will showcase new research, writing, or ideas.

A new book is garnering significant attention. In Going Solo, Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at NYU, looks at a growing trend in contemporary adulthood: living alone. How we live, Klinenberg argues, is shifting, and it could be one of the most important developments of the last half-century. Read More »



To Get America Growing Again, It's Time to Unleash Our Cities: A Guest Post by Ed Glaeser

Ed Glaeser is an economist’s economist — as smart as they come, driven by empiricism, with something interesting to say about nearly anything. He has just published a new book, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. Glaeser argues that cities often get a bad rap even though they are “actually the healthiest, greenest, and richest (in cultural and economic terms) places to live. New Yorkers, for instance, live longer than other Americans; heart disease and cancer rates are lower in Gotham than in the nation as a whole. More than half of America’s income is earned in twenty-two metropolitan areas. And city dwellers use, on average, 40 percent less energy than suburbanites.”

We’re pleased to offer the following guest post from Glaeser on the glory of cities. I hope you find it as enthralling as I did. Read More »



What’s Your Walk Score?

Here’s a website worth checking out if you own a good pair of shoes and don’t mind using them once in a while. It’s called Walk Score and it gauges the pedestrian-friendliness of locations. Type in any address or pair of cross streets in the U.S. (or Europe for that matter), and the site maps the area and plots the nearby recreational, commercial, cultural, and social amenities. Even better, for the quantitatively inclined, it assigns each location a walk score on a 0 to 100 scale. Read More »



Los Angeles Transportation Facts and Fiction: Sprawl

In a previous post I challenged you to identify which of six common stereotypes about transportation and land use in Los Angeles is actually true. The first is that Los Angeles has developed in a low-density, sprawling pattern. Answer: False. As of the 2000 census, the Los Angeles region’s urbanized area had the highest population […] Read More »



Should H.U.D. Really Be Dismantled?

In a Times Op-Ed Friday, my co-author (and regular blog contributor) Sudhir Venkatesh argues that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) has outlived its useful life. The Chicago economist in me is not so sure that the alternative he proposes — a new federal agency devoted to regional planning — is going to […] Read More »



How Should We Be Thinking About Urbanization? A Freakonomics Quorum

Urbanization has been climbing steadily of late, with more than half of the world’s population now living in cities. Given the economic, sociological, political, and environmental ramifications, how should we be thinking about this? We gathered a quorum of smart thinkers on this subject — James Howard Kunstler, Edward Glaeser, Robert Bruegmann, Dolores Hayden, and […] Read More »