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Essays on urban and development economics

Bernard, Louise Alice Karine (2022) Essays on urban and development economics. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004470


This thesis is composed of four essays on urban and spatial economics. The first two papers are empirical studies evaluating the impact of public policies in England – one looking at transport infrastructure and the other at flood management. The last two papers leverage satellite imagery to investigate the effects of floods and flood risk on urbanisation in developing countries. The first paper focuses on the impact of cycling infrastructure on road traffic in London. It demonstrates that providing segregated cycling lanes increases cycling flows without impacting motorised traffic. Not only do the cycling flows increase immediately after the opening of the dedicated lanes, but they also appear to be on a permanent steeper growth path. One primary causal mechanism investigated is the reduction in accidents along the cycling routes. The second paper analyses the role of natural disasters in local election results in England. It finds that at the electoral ward level, electors punish the incumbent party after a flood during local elections in England – but they are much more likely to do so if the incumbent party aligns with the party in power, both at the local authority and national government levels. There is no evidence that the political party alignment of the incumbent is a significant driving force. However, there is a clear pattern of more votes going to the UK Independence Party in the wake of a flood shock. The third paper of the thesis investigates the causal role of land scarcity and path dependence on the expansion of Chinese cities into high flood risk land. It finds that a naïve OLS regression overestimates the role topographic constraints play in driving urbanisation in high flood risk areas. Once instrumented for, land scarcity due to topographic constraints is not a driver of urbanisation in high flood risk areas: cities expand into high flood risk land despite having safe land to expand on. The last paper explores the medium-term effect of flooding on population growth in Sub- Saharan Africa. It finds that large floods in rural areas have long-term persistent effects on population growth but that the effects are mitigated in large urban areas. Using Demographic and Health Survey data, the paper finds that experiencing a severe flood is associated with worse health outcomes and a higher probability of being classified in the poorest wealth bracket, especially in rural areas. In the medium-term, the analysis shows sorting of the poorest households in high-flood risk areas. This is consistent with a higher out-migration rate from rural areas.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Louise Alice Karine Bernard
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD100 Land Use
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Overman, Henry G.

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