Williams College to Host Conference on Urbanization and Development

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., September 27, 2013—Williams College will host a conference Oct. 17 and 18 titled “Urbanization and Development.” The conference begins with a keynote address at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17, on the MainStage at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance. Tickets for the keynote address are required for admission but are free. Tickets are available through the box office of the ’62 Center by calling (413) 597-2425 or online at http://62center.williams.edu/box-office/. The conference continues on Oct. 18 with talks throughout the day in Griffin Hall, room 3. Tickets are not required for the talks on Oct. 18.

This year’s topic was chosen in response to rapid urbanization around the world. A hundred years ago, only two out of every 10 people lived in cities, compared to over five out of 10 today, and a projected seven out of 10 in 2050. The growth of urban areas in developing countries has been extremely rapid. This growth creates challenges, such as provision of housing, sanitation, water supply, and transportation. How the challenges are met and managed will have consequences for the well-being of people and for the sustainability of human activity. Urbanization brings benefits by making it easier for people to interact, learn from one another, start new businesses, and produce goods and services. Urbanization is linked to the development of the economy, and the management of the urbanization process can influence the level of prosperity a country achieves as well as the sustainability and equity of distribution of the prosperity.

Each talk will last for one hour, with 45 minutes of remarks from the speaker and15 minutes for Q&A. The full schedule is as follows:

Thursday, October 17 – MainStage, ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance

8 p.m. Keynote Address: Questions for Policy and Understanding of Urban Systems: the Case of Colombia

Gilles Duranton, professor and chair of the Real Estate Department at the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania

Duranton will present on the nature and limits of what we can understand about policy effectiveness in the context of an ongoing effort by the Colombian government to strengthen its cities.

Friday, October 18 – Griffin Hall, room 3

9 a.m. Urbanization, Property Rights, and Entrepreneurship

Lakshmi Iyer, associate professor of business administration, government, and the International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School

Iyer will discuss the link between urbanization and entrepreneurship. She will review studies from India and China on how urbanization can facilitate entrepreneurship and the barriers to making this process more inclusive.

10 a.m. Land Markets, Property Rights, and City Structure in West African Cities

Harris Selod, senior economist at The World Bank

Selod will discuss the complex land tenure systems that prevail in West African cities. His research presents descriptive findings from a land market assessment recently carried out in Bamako, Mali.

11 a.m. The Spatial Distribution of Population in 54 World Cities: The Role of Markets, Planning, and Topography

Stephen Malpezzi, professor in the Wisconsin School of Business’s Department of Real Estate and Urban Land Economics at the University of Wisconsin

Malpezzi’s research presents population density gradients across a wide range of regions and levels of development. The results illustrate some of the forces that affect urban density patterns.

Noon – Break

1:15 p.m. Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict

Solomon Hsiang, assistant professor of public policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley

Hsiang will present causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions in the world. Increased rates of human conflict could represent a large and critical impact of climate change.

2:15 p.m. Climate Change and Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa

Adam Storeygard, assistant professor of economics at Tufts University

Storeygard will present evidence that areas in sub-Saharan Africa with sharper drying trends have urbanized faster than their neighbors experiencing more mild climate change.

3:15 p.m. Transportation and Urban Growth in Chinese Cities

Nathaniel Baum-Snow, associate professor of Economics at Brown University

Baum-Snow will discuss research that examines various mechanisms through which highway and railroad networks have facilitated urban growth in Chinese cities since 1990.

4:30 p.m. Panel discussion and wrap-up

The wrap-up session will present an overview of themes and future directions for inquiry.

The event is sponsored by the Center for Development Economics, the Department of Economics, the Center for Environmental Studies, and the Gaudino Fund.


For building locations on the Williams campus, please consult the map outside the driveway entrance to the Security Office located in Hopkins Hall on Main Street (Rte. 2), next to the Thompson Memorial Chapel, or call the Office of Communications (413) 597-4277. The map can also be found on the web at www.williams.edu/map

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