The work-from-home revolution and the performance of cities

RESEARCH PAPERS ARE PRELIMINARY MATERIALS CIRCULATED TO STIMULATE DISCUSSION AND CRITICAL COMMENT. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE INDIVIDUAL AUTHORS. WHILE RESEARCH PAPERS BENEFIT FROM ACTIVE UHERO DISCUSSION, THEY HAVE NOT UNDERGONE FORMAL ACADEMIC PEER REVIEW.

In this paper we set out the relationships between the behavioural, technological and spatial changes in systems that allow for heterogeneous responses to working-from-home by different types of actors, and also identifies the channels via which such changes take place. Unlike all other papers on the subject, the analytical framework we propose centers explicitly on the role of frequency of commuting. In particular, we find that the optimal frequency of commuting is positively related to the opportunity costs of less-than-continuous face-to-face interaction and inversely related to the travel plus travel-time costs. The results also support recent empirical findings of a “donut effect” with greater growth in the suburbs and hinterlands around large cities, but also capture inter-city effects for the first time. Counterintuitively, the reduction in the frequency of commuting makes larger cities and their hinterlands more desirable places, in spite of longer commuting distances. Taken together, our results imply enhanced productivity of larger cities over smaller cities.

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