Spatial structure of the nonmarket economy

This strand of my research focuses on the increasing importance of tracking the value of non-market goods and services that affect the quality of life. This research provides new theoretical and empirical answers to quantify the spatial dispersion and geographic inequality of nonmarket activity. A consumer's quality of life depends, in part, on their consumption of localized amenities such as climate, local public goods, urban amenities, and environmental externalities. Consumers pay for these amenities indirectly, through the housing prices and wage rates associated with the geographic locations they choose. While the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) do not track amenity values directly, spatial variation in rents and wages reflects the implicit cost of consuming spatially delineated amenities. For example, this research suggests find that localized amenities accounted for approximately 6% of personal consumption expenditures ($420 billion) in 2000 in the United States.

The changing nature of real-financial linkages and their impact on urban land values -- and thus on urban spatial structure -- is an important element of this research as it contributes to an emergent literature on spatial asset pricing. This work aims to understand the demand for real estate assets by recognising that household portfolio choice and asset pricing influence location choice and the spatial distribution of rents, and vice versa. I am particularly interested in the interplay between amenities, mortgage credit flows and risk premia in the housing market.

Related publications, work in progress and planned initiatives:

Housing policy and urban public finance

This research analyses the tensions between federal housing policy and the fiscal condition of cities. From its beginnings, housing policy in the United States had to negotiate the delicate balance the promises and perils of fiscal federalism, whereby multiple layers of government are the preferred structure for financing and providing public goods. This research provides new answers regarding the spatial incident of federal housing objectives and the locational sorting behavior of households and firms. This work also investigates some the (unintended) consequences of federal programs for municipal finance, particularly in de-industrialising cities where a shirking property tax base intensifies urban fiscal stress. Because real estate is the quintessential durable good -- it can be built quickly, but disappears slowly -- urban decline is not the mirror image of growth. This research also aims to establish a solid grasp of the mechanics of "the actors in concert". Indeed, these asymmetries in urban development imply that "too big to fail" also applies to real estate markets. At the same time, however, the role of the "lender of last resort" in a federal system is rarely well-defined. Federal housing policy, in particular the housing finance system in the United States is an important locus of that tension.

Related publications, work in progress and planned initiatives:

  • Amenities, Affordability, and Housing Vouchers with Casey Dawkins, under review.
  • Housing Affordability (2012), forthcoming in A. C. Michalos (ed.), Encyclopedia of Quality of Life Research, New York/Heidelberg: Springer Verlag.
  • "The Funds Flow of Housing Credit and the Regional Balance of Payments," (funded via Summer UROP grant).
  • "Lösch Revisited: The Geography of Interest Rates and Mortgage Finance."

Sustainability and energy planning

This research focuses on various aspects of the urban sustainability discourse. The main thrust of this research focuses on the issue of operationalizing measures of sustainability for both national and local policy. In particular; this research aims to make the following contributions to the literature on sustainability: First, this work provides theory-based methodological foundations for an urban sustainability index which could serve as a pilot for a larger set of national, policy-apt green indices. Second, it aims to make both theoretical and empirical contributions to recent efforts of expanding the national income and products accounts (NIPA) to include nonmarket public goods, such as sustainability. Indeed, research on local economic development policy must build on a solid understanding of how the regional economy is shaped by its spatial linkages in the form of agglomeration effects and externality spillovers (a particularly intriguing aspect of this work is the broader question of how these linkages affect the broader notion of "sustainable economic growth"). Lastly, this work connects hitherto largely disparate work on sustainability to the geographic incident of urban energy consumption.

Related publications, work in progress and planned initiatives: