Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier

Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier

by Edward Glaeser


View All Available Formats & Editions


A pioneering urban economist offers fascinating, even inspiring proof that the city is humanity's greatest invention and our best hope for the future.

America is an urban nation. More than two thirds of us live on the 3 percent of land that contains our cities. Yet cities get a bad rap: they're dirty, poor, unhealthy, crime ridden, expensive, environmentally unfriendly... Or are they?

As Edward Glaeser proves in this myth-shattering book, cities are actually the healthiest, greenest, and richest (in cultural and economic terms) places to live. New Yorkers, for instance, live longer than other Americans; heart disease and cancer rates are lower in Gotham than in the nation as a whole. More than half of America's income is earned in twenty-two metropolitan areas. And city dwellers use, on average, 40 percent less energy than suburbanites.

Glaeser travels through history and around the globe to reveal the hidden workings of cities and how they bring out the best in humankind. Even the worst cities-Kinshasa, Kolkata, Lagos- confer surprising benefits on the people who flock to them, including better health and more jobs than the rural areas that surround them. Glaeser visits Bangalore and Silicon Valley, whose strangely similar histories prove how essential education is to urban success and how new technology actually encourages people to gather together physically. He discovers why Detroit is dying while other old industrial cities-Chicago, Boston, New York-thrive. He investigates why a new house costs 350 percent more in Los Angeles than in Houston, even though building costs are only 25 percent higher in L.A. He pinpoints the single factor that most influences urban growth-January temperatures-and explains how certain chilly cities manage to defy that link. He explains how West Coast environmentalists have harmed the environment, and how struggling cities from Youngstown to New Orleans can "shrink to greatness." And he exposes the dangerous anti-urban political bias that is harming both cities and the entire country.

Using intrepid reportage, keen analysis, and eloquent argument, Glaeser makes an impassioned case for the city's import and splendor. He reminds us forcefully why we should nurture our cities or suffer consequences that will hurt us all, no matter where we live.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594202773
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/10/2011
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 9.32(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Edward Glaeser is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard University. He studies the economics of cities, housing, segregation, obesity, crime, innovation, and other subjects, and writes about many of these issues for Economix. He serves as the director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government and the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. He is also a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1992.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Our Urban Species 1

Chapter 1 What Do They Make in Bangalore? 17

Ports of Intellectual Entry: Athens 19

Baghdad's House of Wisdom 21

Learning in Nagasaki 23

How Bangalore Became a Boom Town 24

Education and Urban Success 27

The Rise of Silicon Valley 29

The Cities of Tomorrow 34

Chapter 2 Why Do Cities Decline? 41

How the Rust Belt Rose 43

Detroit Before Cars 46

Henry Ford and Industrial Detroit 49

Why Riot? 52

Urban Reinvention: New York Since 1970 56

The Righteous Rage of Coleman Young 58

The Curley Effect 60

The Edifice Complex 61

Remaining in the Rust Belt 63

Shrinking to Greatness 64

Chapter 3 What's Good About Slums? 69

Rio's Favelas 72

Moving On Up 76

Richard Wright's Urban Exodus 79

Rise and Fall of the American Ghetto 81

The Inner City 85

How Policy Magnifies Poverty 86

Chapter 4 How Were the Tenements Tamed? 93

The Plight of Kinshasa 95

Healing Sick Cities 97

Street Cleaning and Corruption 101

More Roads, Less Traffic? 104

Making Cities Safer 106

Health Benefits 114

Chapter 5 Is London a Luxury Resort? 117

Scale Economies and the Globe Theatre 119

The Division of Labor and Lamb Vindaloo 122

Shoes and the City 126

London as Marriage Market 127

When Are High Wages Bad? 129

Chapter 6 What's So Great About Skyscrapers? 135

Inventing the Skyscraper 136

The Soaring Ambition of A. E. Lefcourt 140

Regulating New York 142

Fear of Heights 144

The Perils of Preservation 148

Rethinking Paris 152

Mismanagement in Mumbai 157

Three Simple Rules 161

Chapter 7 Why Has Sprawl Spread? 165

Sprawl Before Cars 167

William Levitt and Mass-Produced Housing 174

Rebuilding America Around the Car 177

Welcome to The Woodlands 180

Accounting for Tastes: Why a Million People Moved to Houston 183

Why Is Housing So Cheap in the Sunbelt? 188

What's Wrong with Sprawl? 193

Chapter 8 Is There Anything Greener Than Blacktop? 199

The Dream of Garden Living 202

Dirty Footprints: Comparing Carbon Emissions 206

The Unintended Consequences of Environmentalism 210

Two Green Visions: The Prince and the Mayor 213

The Biggest Battle: Greening India and China 217

Seeking Smarter Environmentalism 220

Chapter 9 How Do Cities Succeed? 223

The Imperial City: Tokyo 224

The Well-Managed City: Singapore and Gaborone 227

The Smart City: Boston, Minneapolis, and Milan 231

The Consumer City: Vancouver 238

The Growing City: Chicago and Atlanta 241

Too Much of a Good Thing in Dubai 244

CONCLUSION: Flat World, Tall City 247

Give Cities a Level Playing Field 249

Urbanization Through Globalization 251

Lend a Hand to Human Capital 253

Help Poor People, Not Poor Places 255

The Challenge of Urban Poverty 257

The Rise of the Consumer City 259

The Curse of NIMBYism 260

The Bias Toward Sprawl 264

Green Cities 276

Gifts of the City 268

Acknowledgments 271

Notes 275

Bibliography 307

Index 325

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"You'll...walk away dazzled by the greatness of cities and fascinated by this writer's nimble mind." —-The New York Times

Steven D. Levitt

“Edward Glaeser is one of the world’s most brilliant economists, and TRIUMPH OF THE CITY is a masterpiece. Seamlessly combining economics and history, he explains why cities are ‘our species’ greatest invention.’ This beautifully written book makes clear how cities have not only survived but thrived, even as modern technology has seemingly made one’s physical location less important.” --(Steven D. Levitt, co-author of FREAKONOMICS and SUPERFREAKONOMICS; professor of economics at the University of Chicago )

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Triumph of the City 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
Today our world is focusing on making it a greener planet. More environmentally friendly and protecting our resources while in the midst of the one of the worst economic failures. So how does one make our world a better place? Everyone has their own practical solution but did you ever look around at your current city and the cities around the world and ask yourself how are they moving forward while others are growing more and more vacant and abandoned? Believe it or not, cities are more greener for our environment than any other place. They use less resources and have lower pollution levels than suburban areas, but why? In the city, everything is close. Building offer dual purposes with lower, street levels offering all kinds of store fronts, restaurants and services people need to live, while higher up are where people are learning to live with less space. Less things to keep and less areas to keep clean and maintain. Not only that the more dense the city is, the more people will walk, bike and take public transportation than anywhere else. There is no need for cars, thus pollution in cities like New York are considerably less than Los Angeles. Now in cities like Detroit where the three major car manufacturers keep the heartbeat alive, with nothing coming out of the factory like before and everything going automated, people are out of jobs. No skills to help them move forward they are leaving in droves to places where work is plentiful and thus creating a huge place where nothing is existing anymore. Buildings are sitting vacant, lots are falling into ruin and rather than build them up because there aren't resources available to keep people here, the city has no choice but to bull doze them down to make green space available. So what can we do to bring the heartbeats back to cities all over the world? Check out the book, Truimph of the City by Edward Glaeser and find out. I was so impressed by all his research into what makes cities work over any where else and why some fail never to come back despite all the attempts to revive them. This is a great read and really makes you think about where we are headed and what we can do to ensure our own cities survival for the future. I received this book compliments of TLC Book Tours for my honest review and have to say 5 stars for this one. This one really educated me on some things I never considered and will keep on my own list when making my next move anywhere to live.
jasonlf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A pleasure to read from beginning to end, Ed Glaeser writes intelligently and provocatively about cities. If all you care about is the bottom line you need read no further than the title: "Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier." But if you want an enjoyable and intellectually interesting tour through the world's major cities, both past and present with some speculation about the future, you won't want to miss the rest of the book.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Glaesar's book is an analysis of the city as one of the great inventions of humanity and the connections the city fosters being a moving force behind human ingenuity and progress. Cities are seen as a place with poor people living in slums yet Glaesar demonstrates that cities actually draw poor people because cities offer them opportunities to improve their lives. Glaesar also demonstrates that cities are more environmentally friendly than suburbs. He criticizes how government policies tend to encourage sprawl and expensive housing. Several cities (including my own, Boston) are cited as examples of successful cities. If there's one thing that does make me uneasy about this book is Glaesar's uncritical support of free-market capitalism, but he does make a good point that governments should spend money to help the poor but not spend money on poor places, an important distinction. My opinion is already biased toward cities, but I believe this book makes a great argument toward encouraging dense well-managed cities as the sustainable way to go for humanity's future.Favorite Passages:"The strength that comes from human collaboration is the central truth behind civilization's success and the primary reason why cities exist. To understand our cities and what to do about them, we must hold on to those truths and dispatch harmful myths. We must discard the view that environmentalism means living around tree and that urbanites should always fight to preserve a city's physical past. We must stop idolizing home ownership which favors suburban tract homes over high-rise apartments, and stop romanticizing rural villages. We should eschew the simplistic view that better long-distance communication will reduce our desire and need to be near one another. Above all, we must free ourselves from our tendency to see cities as their buildings, and remember that the real city is made of flesh, not concrete." - p. 15
Daniel.Estes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I live somewhat in the suburbs and about 5-10min from the heart of downtown by car. I doubt I would ever want to live in a big city of the kind Glaeser describes, but this book is the most convincing argument for the metropolis I've ever read. Even the hugely controversial carbon tax he argues for is reasonably explained. I still don't agree with it, but I understand better why the debate is valid.The book's best message, that the core of cities are its people and not its buildings, changed my viewpoint substantially. And that helped me see another of his points, that the urban poor in cities are better off there than anywhere else. It's necessary to understand this because so much of our judgements against cities are judgements against the poor living there.The only reality that Glaeser doesn't address well enough is that most people don't want to live in cities if given a choice. The smaller community, the suburb, seems to be preference for the majority - damn all the consequences of communting and higher gas prices.
sumariotter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't agree with everything Glaeser says but overall I found it really interesting, thought-provoking and it opened my eyes to a lot of things. I already agreed with him that the density of cities is great and breeds connectivity, new ideas, and creativity. And I also knew that it is much better for the environment for people to cluster together in cities where they use less gas, less energy and contain their impact (as opposed to spreading out in suburbs and rural areas. But I used to be a big fan of preserving all old buildings and not allowing high rises. Glaeser makes a really good case for why we should build up and preserve strategically, not preserve everything blindly. Unless we want our beautiful old cities to only be playgrounds for the rich, and want builders to go elsewhere and sprawl all over the rest of the country....As environmentalists, we need to think about the good of the whole, not just the good of our neighborhood. I still think that there is perhaps an in-between strategy. between low two story buildings and sky-scrapers. And I don't have his blithe faith in the free market. But he makes a lot of really good points and has changed my mind on a number of issues. I hope that politicians, ecologists, and urban planners will all read and discuss this.
anyotherbizniz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent book. Although somnewhat more of a free market liberal economist approach than I would normally take, I have to agree with his basic premises that succesful cities are better for society and mankind generally than the suburbs and rural areas. And to have succesful cities we need migration, education, good governance, space for clever people to interact, quality cultural/leisure activities, a social system that maintains the poor and rich who equally drive the economy and a rebalancing of the pro-suburb bias in national tax and spend policies. Achieving the last is unlikely. But the book still reminded me why I love living in central London.
jcbrunner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book should come with a surgeon general's warning: Reading this book may harm your brain and heart. The harm to the heart is caused by the author's extreme callousness. Glaeser is the poster-child of the "some are more equal" Reagan revolution. His Upper West Side Ivy Prep School features 113 faculty for 613 students, a ratio a struggling kid in the Bronx certainly will equalize by displaying greater effort. The unity in the school's Dutch motto "Eendracht Maakt Macht" probably applies only to the select few.He applauds poor people's misery. Individually, the author claims that misery pressures poor people to seek to market and explore their true talents in a Social Darwinian competition. Collectively, poverty in a city, according to the author, is a sign of success, because the reserve army of the poor could be living in even more desperate places in the countryside. The struggling poor alone, however, are necessary but not sufficient for the triumph of a city. For this, a city needs to answer the question Glaeser asks multiple times: What makes a city attractive to a billionaire? Coddling the billionaires is the main purpose of this book. Let the poor, who, in a US context, are of a different pigmentation than the author, eat cake! In a twist of history, the poor today are no longer hungry (at least, those not on food assistance or food deprived) but obese (because, as Glaeser writes in another paper, they "have self-control problems".). A truly ugly mind.Apart from his philosophy, his facts are questionable too. Much is pure "truthiness" of the David Brooks and Tom Friedman variety. One of his key examples for the triumph of the city is Silicon Valley which takes quite a bit of mind-bending before one can subsume it under the term "city". What he actually means is known as cluster development theory developed by Michael Porter or Paul Krugman (both absent in Glaeser's book intellectually and in the bibliography). In his muddled understanding of clusters, Glaeser's key recommendation is investment in education (which only works if the educated contribute and create to a city's unique competitive advantage which nowadays has to be near global). Glaeser also fails to understand specialization. His advice is for the world to become more like Manhattan, Singapore or London. The world, however, does not need multiple Manhattans. To the contrary, Manhattan's first mover advantage means that many industries cluster there and it would be futile to try to compete with them from afar.The next idea Glaeser manages to misunderstand is urban density. Again, he sees Manhattan's sky scrapers as the perfect solution. Stupid Paris and London, which do not want to bulldoze their old buildings for skyscrapers in the heart of their city centers. At least, Glaeser acknowledges that in those cities, their sky scrapers are clustered outside the center, easily reachable by public transportation. Glaeser's view of Paris seems to be shaped more from Amélie than the real city, but facts have never been much of an impediment to anti-French sentiment in the US. If Glaeser had researched beyond his dream of urban business and condominium towers for the rich, he might have become aware that the anonymity and lack of public surveillance can create enormous social problems (see French HLM or Chicago or Philly projects). His skyscraper utopia could turn ugly really quickly (but then, it would only confirm his prejudices about "those people").His final idea is uncontroversial in enlightened societies. Urban people use less natural resources than those living in rural areas. Glaeser examined a truly unhelpful question. Texas would naturally become greener if it looked like New York city, but how likely is that? A sensible approach would have compared energy utilization in Texas compared to one in, say, Southern Europe, thus exposing the giant energy waste in Texas. Glaeser straddles the idea of ecological behavior with a soft climate change denialism (ei
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The guy lives in the burbs(do as i say not as i do) and holds some animosity toward teachers. Outside if that, he makes the same good points as every other author on this topic. A bit too much anecdotal 'evidence' can make him seem preachy. Still worth it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ron007 More than 1 year ago
The book both enlightened and irritated. The enlightenment concerned new insights for me, especially from the developing world’s urban perspective. ‘Five million more people every month live in the cities of the developing world...’ (p.1). ‘...cities are expanding enormously because urban density provides the clearest path from poverty to prosperity’ (p.1). ‘There is a near-perfect correlation between urbanisation and prosperity across nations’ (p.7). ‘Cities are... the places where their nation’s genius is most fully expressed’ (p.8). ‘Cities... thrive as places of pleasure as well as productivity’ (p.10). The book is eclectic in coverage, weaves lessons from history and offers indicators for the rapidly urbanising developing world. It is written by an American Harvard economist. It therefore reads from an economist’s perspective (no problem here) and anchors central conclusions on American cities (slight quibbles there). However, New York City comes out really well (others do too but for different reasons). The frequent tribute to Haussmann’s reconstruction of Paris, while admiring its resulting urban splendour, acknowledges the danger of the ossification of the physical fabric (a sound economic argument against excessive conservation). He also acknowledges that Haussmann destroyed almost half of Paris in order to achieve this new classical urban form. Patrick Geddes, the founding father of the scientific town planning movement (Cities in Evolution), a biologist by original training (who did a great deal of his pioneering work in the developing world), recognised the ‘living organism’ of the city. He lamented the destruction of the human and physical capital of Paris, on its path to reconstruction. How else could it be done one might ask? Scotland offers one answer. The city fathers’ recognised that Edinburgh’s medieval core could no longer accommodate its burgeoning population. This was at the height of the Scottish Enlightenment. So, between 1780 and roughly 1820, the majority of Edinburgh’s New Town was designed and built, on open land! For those with no experience of this Georgian masterpiece, you can fit Georgian Bath into the New Town as least three times. The author did not cite Geddes in his polemic (though Howard’s Garden City Movement was). Yet, what Glaeser and Geddes have in common is a recognition of the central virtue of the city. The author refers to it as ‘our greatest invention’. Geddes viewed cities as ‘cathedrals to the people’. There is a brilliant vignette, comparing the Green credentials and practical results of their respective advocacy, between Prince Charles and Ken Livingstone (former elected mayor of Greater London) (pp. 213-217). The book is almost worth it just for that! His strategic conclusions attempt to draw lessons from urbanising America to that of India and China. It is a compelling way to view the urban future. The irritations all concern style and punctuation; quoting written text in double inverted commas and starting sentences with conjunctions to name just two.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TecumsehHaines More than 1 year ago
Deceitful, simplified, and repetitive. In particular, Glaeser's analysis of the crisis in Detroit is pathetic. 'Detroit's middle-class escaped Coleman Young (mayor) by moving to the suburbs'. Would recommend that he read 'Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit'. The true cause is no less simple. 1) The migration of black workers to the rust belt alienated whites who prefer homogeneity (as Glaeser notes). 2) Jobs moved outside of Detroit, where land and labor were cheaper and taxes were lower. 3) Discriminatory housing practices were common and kept minorities in inner city Detroit. The Fair Housing Act wasn't signed until 1968 and many jobs had moved outside city limits by then. The cause was structural, not the result of the actions of Coleman Young. In fact, much more damaging than the policies of Young were the discriminatory policies of Albert Cobo, which isolated and disenfranchised the black populace. With no jobs and no mobility, the citizens of Detroit had little choice but to watch their home slowly decay.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago