Essays on environment and the spatial distribution of economic activities Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/0r967591z

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  • Environmental quality and the spatial distribution of economic activities affect each other in many ways. The primary purpose of this dissertation is to contribute to understanding the complex interrelationship and its policy implications. This dissertation consists of three essays. The first essay examines the roles that locational amenities and increasing returns to scale play in the formation of urban development patterns and regional economic growth. The spatial distribution of amenities is shown to be a major determinant; and the effects of amenities are reinforced by external scale economies and localized information spillovers, both of which promote agglomeration and human capital accumulation. Workers in amenity locations are more productive because of increasing returns, which encourage investment on human capital development. The decentralized equilibrium is not optimal because of the externalities associated with human capital investments. The efficiency can be improved by public policies encouraging human capital investments. Such policies also increase the number and size of cities and the pace of urbanization and economic growth. The second essay examines the effects of natural disasters on population growth across U.S. counties during the period of 1960-2000. Results suggest that except earthquakes and most serious hurricanes, the risks of natural disasters have no statistically significant effects on population growth. We also estimate the effects of natural disasters on county socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, including human capital, age and ethnic composition of population, industrial composition, and income inequality, which correlate with county population growth. The insignificance of those effects indicates that natural disasters have no indirect effects on population growth, either. The third essay considers the roles of mandatory building codes for regulating land development in a natural disaster-prone area as self-insurance and self-protection. To find the optimal building codes, a simple urban economics model is constructed for the analysis. A number of comparative statics results are presented to describe how optimal building codes are affected by the endowed probability of the disaster, the expected loss, productivity levels of self-insurance and self-protection, and socioeconomic characteristics of the area such as wage, population, and the share of land area in the risky region.
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