Must-read: Miles Kimball: “Density is Destiny”

Must-Read: Miles Kimball: Density is Destiny: “Every time the population of a city doubles…

…every individual measure of human interaction there also increases by 15% to 20%. Not so long ago, futurists predicted that the ease of electronic connectivity would make big cities obsolete. Instead, Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser and others now say that improvements in information technology strengthen cities that are centers of innovation by speeding the flow of ideas. Urban density facilitates contact between smart people and fosters innovation, increasing urban incomes as new businesses take hold, they say…. To my taste, to have high density be delightful, there are five key desiderata: 1. plenty of floor space in the home. 2. no stairs within an individual family’s home…. 3. plenty of windows looking out. 4. excellent soundproofing. 5. plenty of green space nearby All of these are compatible with very high density, given good design….

Even as things are now, I think Manhattan is very pleasant. With residential buildings like the ones I am describing, almost any city could have high density and be even more pleasant than Manhattan is now–except for one thing: as long as each family gets plenty of floor space, no stairs to climb, plenty of windows, excellent soundproofing, and plenty of green space, when it comes to cities, bigger is better. And New York City has a head start.

April 6, 2016


Brad DeLong
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