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What Explains Central City Performance?, Working Paper 029 Open Access

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The fundamental question we address is: What accounts for urban performance? By urban performance we mean change over time in important indicators of urban well-being such as income, jobs, crime rate, housing affordability, etc. Change in these indicators might result from several factors, including 1) structural factors that were present at the beginning of the period and predispose the city indicators to change in a predictable way (economic structure, skill level of the population), 2) exogenous changes that occurred during the period (natural disasters, immigration, new state or federal policies), and 3) endogenous changes that occurred during the period (city policy, behavior of private and public-sector elites). In the popular writing (and often in public policy literature as well), urban performance is frequently attributed largely to explicit policy decisions of local (and/or state) public officials or civic elites. We wish to examine this attribution in the context of other factors that might also affect performance.

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