DP12001 | Who gets the urban surplus?

Publication Date

04/27/2017

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Abstract

High productivity in cities creates an economic surplus relative to other areas. How is this divided between workers and land-owners? Simple models with homogenous labour suggest that it accrues largely – or entirely – in the form of land-rents. This paper shows that heterogeneity of labour in two main dimensions (productivity differentials and housing demands) radically changes this result. Even a modest amount of heterogeneity can drive the land share of surplus down to 2/3rds or lower, as high productivity and/or low housing demand individuals receive large utility gains. In a system of cities the sorting of workers across cities mean that the land-rent share of surplus is lowest in the largest and most productive cities.