Journal Article

The Making of the Modern Metropolis: Evidence from London


  • Heblich
  • S.
  • Redding
  • S.J.
  • Sturm
  • D.M.
Publication Date

Using newly constructed spatially disaggregated data for London from 1801 to 1921, we show that the invention of the steam railway led to the first large-scale separation of workplace and residence. We show that a class of quantitative urban models is remarkably successful in explaining this reorganization of economic activity. We structurally estimate one of the models in this class and find substantial agglomeration forces in both production and residence. In counterfactuals, we find that removing the whole railway network reduces the population and the value of land and buildings in London by up to 51.5% and 53.3% respectively, and decreases net commuting into the historical center of London by more than 300,000 workers.


JEL Classification
O18, R12, R40

Key Words

  • Urban
  • Rural
  • Regional
  • and Transportation Analysis
  • Housing
  • Infrastructure
  • Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity
  • General