Gabriella Elanbeck and Rory Clarke, OECD Observer
New York City has one of the highest average population densities in the world, and few other US cities share its concentrated hustle and bustle. In fact, most of them face an entirely different challenge: urban sprawl.
The average number of inhabitants per km2 of populated urban space is actually very low in the US, as our chart shows. So while New Yorkers must grapple with the difficulties that accompany larger numbers of people in limited urban space, such as congestion and high rents, people in low density cities face long commutes and costly public service provision.
The US is not alone. While average population density in the urban areas of OECD countries is high in Korea and Japan, it is low in countries such as Austria and Canada. But even in those countries and cities with high average densities, urban sprawl must be confronted.
People’s lives may suffer, as this scattered and decentralised city growth can lead to environmental damage, social exclusion, and pressures on transportation and public services, as well as high public and private costs. What can policymakers do?
Finding sustainable solutions to reduce sprawl demands rethinking urban space and weighing the private benefits of low density living–my house and garden–against social, environmental and infrastructure costs. Compact cities, which balance dense development patterns, strong public transport linkages, accessibility to local services and jobs, affordable houses and healthy open spaces, can provide an answer.
Links and references
OECD (2018), Rethinking Urban Sprawl: Moving Towards Sustainable Cities, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://oe.cd/urban-sprawl.
OECD (2018), Average population density in urban areas of 29 OECD countries, 2014, https://oe.cd/pop.
©OECD Insights July 2018
Every four years, economists around the world turn their attention to something of true interest to the world’s population – predicting who will win the World Cup.
Studies of what it takes to succeed in international football have confirmed that it pays to be big and it pays to be rich.
Countries with large populations and high GDP per capita have higher FIFA rankings and have more success in World Cup competition.
By that standard, the United States should be an odds-on favorite for this year’s World Cup. Of the 32 countries currently competing in South Africa, the United States is the most populous and has the highest GDP per capita (after adjusting for purchasing power).
Obviously, population and income are not the sole determinants of success, as only the most wildly optimistic fans of Team USA expect it to get anywhere near the final round. In a paper that was published in the August 2009 issue of the Journal of Sports Economics, we confirmed the finding that large, rich nations have greater success in international soccer competitions than small, poor nations.
But we find that the importance of income and population – and hence the United States’ advantage – fall as they become larger. More importantly, we also found that a variety of other economic, political, and institutional factors play an important role in a nation’s soccer prowess:
- It pays to be a well-to-do democracy. Even when one controls for GDP per capita, countries that are members of OECD do better than other nations. More than half of the teams in this year’s World Cup Finals belong to OECD.
- Currently communist countries have more success in soccer. Thus soccer is one of the few venues in which North Korea’s regime has helped its country.
- The old colonial order continues to hold when it comes to soccer, as the former colonial powers – England, France, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain (all of which are in this year’s World Cup Finals) – do better than other nations.
- Oil-exporting countries do better in international soccer competition. In this year’s final, that would give an advantage to Mexico and Nigeria.
- Perhaps the most important indicator of international success is a nation’s commitment to soccer. We measured this commitment in two ways. First, we found that nations that had hosted the World Cup (which 13 finalists have done) did better in international soccer. Our second measure used the number of teams to reach the quarterfinals of Confederation competitions, such as the UEFA Champions League or the Copa Libertadores. We found that a country’s national team did better as more of its club teams (which might or might not feature home-grown talent) reached the confederation’s quarterfinals. This gives a big edge to England and an even bigger edge to Brazil.
What does all this mean for the upcoming World Cup Competition? We applied our econometric results to data for 31 of the 32 nations competing in the finals (missing data led us to exclude North Korea) and found that the favorite is – surprise of surprises – Brazil.
It just goes to show that economic analysis sometimes predicts the obvious.
The OECD looks at Competition Issues Related to Sports (Yes, that really is the title).
Napoleon Bonaparte never visited China, but his reflections on its future role on the global stage have stood the test of time. “Let China sleep,” he wrote about 200 years ago, “for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” Ironically, back in Napoleon’s day China’s share of the global economy was far larger than it is today, according to the economic historian Angus Maddison. The chart is based on data from his monumental economic study of the second millennium, The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, which was published by the OECD in 2001. In the early 19th century, China’s share of the economy stood at just under 33%, according to Maddison, but fell to 4-5% in the 1960s and 1970s before recovering to reach about 12% in 2000, the latest year this study provides. China’s global share has continued to rise since then, as more recent, albeit differently based, World Bank estimates indicate. But why the earlier long decline? Maddison splits the millennium into two parts – before 1820 and after… (more…)