The Reconstruction of the American Urban Landscape in the Twentieth Century
NBER Working Paper No. 8857
One of the most important representations of an urban spatial structure is its density. Indeed, an urban area is defined as a densely populated place with a sizeable number of inhabitants. Yet, despite the fact that the defining element of an urban area is its density, few scholars have systematically examined the long-run changes in the densities of economic activities in these areas. This paper documents the historical changes in population and employment densities in U.S. cities and metropolitan areas and explores the causes of their rise and decline between the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries.