Many social scientists view urbanization as the distinctive hallmark of economic development. Urban growth, however, is also associated with congestion costs such as traffic jams, higher levels of pollution, housing costs, and crime rates. Further, migration of low-income rural families in search of better opportunities increases poverty and inequality within cities. The well-being of a city’s inhabitants depends the extent to which public policy capitalizes on the economic benefits of urbanization while minimizing its social costs. This is precisely the main challenge of modern cities: how to maximize the profits derived from agglomeration economies while keeping a check on congestion costs. Accessibility issues are particularly relevant to Latin America, the second-most urbanized region in the world and the one with the highest urban population growth in the last few decades.
On February 8, the Brookings Global-CERES Economic and Social Policy in Latin America Initiative (ESPLA) and the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) co-hosted a presentation and panel discussion of CAF’s latest Report on Economic Development (RED 2017), “Urban growth and access to opportunities: A challenge for Latin America.” The report looks into four key determinants of urban accessibility: land use regulation, housing markets, mobility infrastructure and transport coverage, and metropolitan governance institutions. After the presentation of the findings, a panel of experts discussed the relevant implications for improving public policy in Latin America.
Following the conversation, panelists took audience questions.