Are cities engines of growth or poverty?

Isher J. Ahluwalia (GDN Board of Directors), J. Vernon Henderson (Brown University) and Matthew Kahn (University of California) were the speakers of the second plenary of the GDN’s 13th Annual Conference which focused on “Cities as engines of growth”. Optimist and pessimist insights emerged about cities and whether they are engines for growth or poverty increase.

In this video, Pierre Jacquet, Chief Economist of the French Development Agency (FDA) summarizes the emerging key messages from the session. There is a significant potential in cities for both poverty and growth. While bad interactions and inequalities lead to poverty increase, other factors such as economies of scale, agglomeration and innovation are considered to be engines of growth. One should not be Manichean; interaction between all factors should not be overlooked. “The future is what we are going to do with it” said Jacquet.

The emphasis was placed throughout the session on the importance of experimentation and the non-negligible need for knowledge towards better urban policies; not to mention the critical dissemination of research. As Jacquet underlined “Cities should be for the people”; the concept of cities for the future that are only made of technologies is an illusion. An urgent need to look at how people can find good quality of life in cities has occurred.


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