NBER Conference: Cities, Labor Markets, and the Global Economy

Friday, October 25, 2019 (All day) to Saturday, October 26, 2019 (All day)
Event Type: 

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Submission deadline: August 25, 2019

Traditionally, economists have approached international trade and technological change from the perspective of countries as a whole. In contrast, recent research has emphasized cities and their local labor markets as the appropriate “unit of observation” when studying these issues. This regional approach is critical to understanding the heterogeneous effects of trade on labor markets in large countries, such as the United States. In the last few decades, a select group of U.S. cities such as Boston, New York and San Francisco have become emerging centers of global comparative advantage in new knowledge-based sectors, while other formerly industrial cities, such as Cleveland and Detroit, have lost their comparative advantage in traditional manufacturing sectors and experienced broad declines.

To promote research on these issues, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), with the support of the Smith Richardson Foundation, will convene a research conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 25-26, 2019. The conference will be organized by Edward Glaeser (Harvard University and NBER) and Stephen Redding (Princeton University and NBER).  

The conference aims to draw together researchers from labor economics, international trade, public finance, urban economics, and related fields to address a range of issues concerning cities as centers of comparative advantage and other related themes:  

  • How has globalization contributed to urban decline in some cities, and urban renaissance in others? How has it affected city-level labor markets and economic activity more generally? How has technological change influenced the nature of economic activity in urban and rural areas? 
  • Why can some cities, like Seattle, successfully transition from an industrial to a post-industrial economy? Are labor market differences important contributors to this variation? How have transportation and industrial technologies shaped the spatial distribution of economic activity? 
  • What are the implications of heterogeneous local labor markets for wage and income inequality? To what extent has there been an increased sorting of workers by skill across cities? Why has migration from poor places, like Detroit, to rich places, like San Francisco, become so sluggish? To what degree does trade in goods and services reduce the need for labor mobility?
  • How do public policies affect the growth of urban areas? Which place-based policies improve labor market outcomes for urban workers? What are the possible responses to the decline of industrial cities and industrial heartland of the United States? What policy issues emerge from the agglomeration of economic activity in new centers of comparative advantage? 

Papers are welcomed on all aspects of cities as centers of comparative advantage. Both theoretical and empirical research, and combinations, are welcome. To be considered for inclusion on the program, papers must be uploaded by Sunday, August 25, 2019, to the following site: