Economics 350: Urban and Regional Economics

Fall 2003, Department of Economics, George Mason University


Instructor: Rebecca Menes                                         Office Hours

Office: Enterprise Hall, Rm 328                                 Phone: 703-993-1156



Course Objectives

Econ 350 is a course in regional development and metropolitan economies. Topics to be covered include the economic functions of cities, locational decisions of households and firms, problems and benefits of high-density urban economic activity, and the political economy of U.S. metropolitan regions, including the role of local, state, and federal governments.


This course fulfills, all or in part, the writing-intensive requirement for the Economics Major. The course requires five papers of 4-6 pages each and an essay final.


Prerequisites and Course Requirements

Econ 306, or equivalent preparation. If you have not taken Econ 306 please see me.


Final Examination: 40% of final grade.

Final exam: Five essay questions distributed at least one week before the final exam. I will select two of the essay questions for the final exam. There will also be 4 short identifications.


Written assignments: 50% of final grade

Five written assignments, minimum 4 pages each. All assignments are due in class on the specified due date.

Two rewrites, at least. I reserve the right to require additional rewrites.


Problem Sets: 10% of final grade

One computational written assignments which will combine problem solving and mathematical analysis with written work.


Late assignments will not be accepted without PRIOR arrangement, so please SPEAK to or E-MAIL me immediately upon learning of any problems.


Class participation:

Classes will mix lecture and discussion. I reserve the right to raise your grade based on class participation. Non-participation will not lower your grade, but persistent non-attendance may.



All students are expected to be familiar with University policies on cheating, plagiarism, and proper citation of sources. I will fail any student who hands in work that is not his or her own, who fails to follow the instructions for the final exam, who copies (his own work or others) during the exam, or who fails to properly credit and cite sources used for the written assignments.



Mills, Edwin S. and Bruce W. Hamilton. Urban Economics. 5th ed. 1994. New York: Harper Collins.


Williams, Joseph A. Style: 10 Lessons in Clarity and Grace.


Garreau, Joel. Edge City.


Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities




Students must also be able to access the following web-sites, either on campus or from home (THESE SITES ARE ALL AVAILABLE THROUGH THE GMU LIBRARY WEB PAGE):



Go to the GMU web-site. Click thru to Libraries and Research, then to University Libraries Databases. Then to J-stor. Click for off-campus access.


NBER Working Papers

Go to the GMU web-site. Click thru to Libraries and Research, then to Library Catalog. Type “nber” into the search, and pick “journal title” as the type of search. Click nber working paper series on the search result, scroll down to “Electronic Resource available to GMU students,...” and click through to the NBER working paper web-site. Then you can search the web site by author, title, etc.


And all students must have access to a daily newspaper (electronically is fine). I recommend the Washington Post.


Class Topics


Unit 0: Introduction: Urban Economics, what are the questions? August 26, 2003.


Unit 1: What do cities do?

Mills and Hamilton:       Chapter 1: The Nature of Urban Areas.

Chapter 2: Comparative Advantage and Regions

Chapter 3: Urbanization and Economic Growth in the United States.


Other reading: See outline for unit 1.


Unit 2: What determines the quality of life in a city? (What do neighborhoods do?)

Summary of issues: neighborhoods, education, crime and poverty.

Mills and Hamilton:       Chapter 9: The problem of poverty

Chapter 14: pages 347-360 (on education and crime.)


Other reading: See outline for unit 2.


Unit 3: What determines the structure of the city?

Mills and Hamilton:       Chapter 1: The Nature of Urban Areas, re-read pages 20-30

Chapter 4: Trends in sizes and structures of urban areas

Chapter 13: Urban Transportation

Chapter 16: Sizes and structures or urban areas.


Optional Readings: Mills and Hamilton Chapter 5, 6 and 7.


Other reading: See outline for unit 3.


Optional: Walking tour of Alexandria.


Unit 4: How do real estate markets work?

Mills and Hamilton:       Chapter 10: The Market for Housing

Chapter 11: Housing Finance and Investing

Chapter 12: Housing problems and policies


Other reading: See outline for Unit 4.

Problem Set based on Units 3 and 4.


Unit 5: What do city governments do?

Mills and Hamilton:       Chapter 8: Welfare Economics and Urban Problems, especially pages 167-174

Chapter 14: Local Government

Chapter 9: pages 185-189 (Federal Government)


Other reading: See outline for Unit 5


Writing Development

5 lectures over the course of the term will be devoted in part to writing and revising. Readings on writing will consist of handouts and the first 6 chapters of Williams.


You are encouraged to read, and work on, all of Williams. It will help you in every class you take.


There will be a separate outline of lectures and study sheets on writing.