Review: The Gated City

by darribas

The Gated City
The Gated City by Ryan Avent
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The main hypothesis is that several barriers to (re)development in the most productive cities of the US have pushed population to cities with lower densities and productivity, hampering economic growth and performance.

The book is written in the spirit of Glaesser’s “Triumph of the city”, but has notably less arguments and is focused much more on the aspect of development barriers.

I think the biggest advantage over Glaesser’s is the (much smaller) time investment that it requires, it can easily be read on a long flight. The author gives a good sense of the main reasons for economic agglomerations in a tone easily understandable for the general public, and offers a good explanation of why cities are relevant for economic performance, and why their role is increasing with new technological advances.

On the minus side, I agree with the other reviewer in that the main message of this book can be summarized in much less than the already short 90 pages it takes. Also, I might be wrong, but I have the feeling the author sometimes mixes up the concept of density with that of size: some of the economic benefits of agglomeration he mentions (e.g. the Marshallian trinity) relate more to “being big” rather than to “being dense”. I think there are sufficient arguments explicitly for density so as to have to steal those from density and not mention it, confusing the reader and giving room to critics of dense cities and compact development.

All in all, it’s a decent book to inform the general public.

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