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What Can Be Learned from Spatial Economics?

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Abstract: Spatial economics aims to explain the location of economic activity. While the importance of the proximity to natural resources has declined considerably, distance and location have not disappeared from economic life. Recent work in spatial economics indicates that new forces, hitherto outweighed by natural factors, are shaping an economic landscape that, with its many barriers and large inequalities, is anything but flat. The location of economic activity is the outcome of a trade-off between different types of scale economies and costs generated by the transfer of people, goods, and information. This trade-off is used as a guide in our survey of the main developments in regional and urban economics, which refer to different spatial scales. The role of transport is discussed for each subfield. We briefly survey the ingredients that could be useful for a synthesis of regional and urban economics and conclude with general policy insights.

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