Essays In Urban And Public Economics

Jacob Allen Krimmel, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation is motivated by a desire to better understand the causes and consequences of geographic inequality in the US today. Using the models and methods from urban, real estate, and public economics, I study how housing, land use, and place-based policies interact to mitigate or exacerbate existing economic disparities. Ultimately, I hope to highlight that acknowledging and appreciating historical linkages between race, place, and local economic conditions is critical for conducting urban economic analysis. In my first chapter, I propose and examine a new causal channel behind the rise of housing supply restrictions: loss of control over local public finance. Exploiting California's mid-1970s landmark school finance equalization as a natural experiment, I show school districts with larger exclusionary motives--those that benefited most from local control of education funding--enacted more stringent land use controls, built less housing, and experienced greater house price appreciation after losing local fiscal autonomy. These findings have implications for the unintended effects of fiscal federalism on the housing market, namely that fiscal policy affects new development in the short run and the urban form in the long run. In the second chapter, I document the incidence and estimate the economic impacts of institutionalized historical mortgage lending discrimination, or Redlining. Using recently digitized maps, I document that neighborhoods with Black residents were disproportionately assigned the most restrictive credit rating. Comparing credit-restricted "redlined" census tracts to adjacent tracts, I estimate redlining was associated with large differential declines in housing supply and population density. After discriminatory lending was outlawed during the mid-1970s, there has been moderate convergence in homeownership rates and racial composition. However, housing supply and population density remain persistently lower in formerly credit-restricted census tracts relative to their credit-favored neighbors. These findings suggest true community reinvestment should involve not only expanding credit access, but also new capital-intensive projects. My third chapter, co-authored with Professor Joseph Gyourko, reports results from a new survey of local residential land use regulatory regimes for nearly 2,500 primarily suburban communities across the United States. Comparing the data to a previous survey (Gyourko, Saiz, Summers, 2008), we are able to observe how the local regulatory environment has changed in over 800 communities. This represents the first consistent nationwide data documenting changes in residential land use regulation at the local jurisdictional level. Finally, we discuss how these changes can and should broaden the research questions for housing and urban economists investigating the local residential land use environment.