High Density Means More Economic Growth and More Happiness, Too

Using new analysis of recent US Census data, Richard Florida demonstrates that “[c]ities and regions where density is more concentrated near their urban cores — appear to gain the biggest economic advantage.” That, and a tad more happiness.

November 30, 2012, 6:00 AM PST

By Erica Gutiérrez


World population

Arenamontanus / Flickr

You likely won't be surprised to read Richard Florida assert that, “[d]ensity — the close clustering of people together in communities — is a big factor in the technological and economic progress of cities and nations." However, in this article, Florida takes this view a step further by looking at how “different types of density are associated with a wide range of regional economic outcomes." Case in point, when crudely measuring density by the sheer number of people and land area, many are surprised to learn that Los Angeles is in fact denser than New York. That said, density is far more concentrated in central Manhattan than in any part of L.A. For Florida, this begs the question, “Do cities with more concentrated density — where people and economic activity are concentrated and spiky near the center — see even better economic performance?”

Using data from the recent U.S. Census, with analysis by colleague Charlotta Mellander of the Martin Prosperity Institute, Florida shows that, “[e]conomic growth and development, according to several key measures, is higher in metros that are not just dense, but where density is more concentrated." Florida asserts that "[t]his is true for productivity, measured as economic output per person, as well as both income and wages.” College grads and creative workers, for example, are more likely found in highly concentrated metro areas, working in knowledge-rich industries from arts and entertainment, to science and technology, to business and management. Findings also show that more highly dense areas also have greater diversity, more bike commuters and less lone drivers.

Finally, housing prices and happiness indicators are also higher in areas where population-weighted density is taken into account. The higher housing prices come from a variety of factors, including higher income and wages, but are also based on innate and imposed restrictions such as the natural geography and city policies including zoning. But with regards to gauging happiness, Florida writes, “happiness levels are modestly associated with density that is more concentrated at the center of the city.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities

Indian Trail, North Carolina

Four ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ Zoning Reforms

An excerpt from the latest book on zoning argues for four approaches to reform that can immediately improve land use regulation in the United States.

June 26, 2022 - M. Nolan Gray

Car Traffic

San Francisco Just Ended Single-Family Zoning

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to Tuesday to eliminate single-family zoning, but pro-development advocates say additional changes are needed to unleash a wave of construction.

June 29, 2022 - San Francisco Chronicle

Rent

U.S. Rental Market Crosses a New Threshold of Affordability

In a first for the country's rental market, most U.S. apartments are asking for more than $2,000 to rent, according to data recently published by Redfin.

June 21, 2022 - Redfin

New Jersey Power Plant

Supreme Court Guts the U.S. EPA’s Ability to Limit Carbon Emissions

The consequences of this ruling have long been foretold. With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now officially barred from the fight against climate change, Congress will have to act to reduce carbon emissions.

June 30 - Yahoo News

Central Los Angeles

California Approves Revised Los Angeles Housing Element

State officials officially approved the city’s housing plan, which was initially rejected for not doing enough to enhance housing equity.

June 30 - Urbanize LA

A fly fisher casts on a fog-covered river.

Lawsuit Could Open Public Access to Colorado Rivers

Colorado is one of few U.S. states that has decided that private property owners supersede the public when it comes to access to rivers and streams.

June 30 - High Country News

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

International Real Estate Strategies and Deal Negotiation

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Affordable Housing: Principles for Changing Domestic and Global Markets

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.