This field prepares students to undertake research related to urban areas. Fundamentally, cities are about proximity and heterogeneity, which bring both benefits and costs. Bringing large numbers of diverse people together in small spaces means opportunities for exciting and productive interaction on the one hand, but also greater possibilities for conflict, contagion, and congestion on the other. Students in this field will gain a solid understanding of these benefits and costs and how they are related.
The field is divided into two main parts. The first—cities and urban government—provides a foundation in urban growth and development, government and public finance. Why do cities exist in the first place and why do some grow more rapidly than others? How do people and businesses sort themselves within urban areas? What drives these decisions and what are their consequences? How does the fragmented structure of American local government contribute to residential sorting? What has research taught us about urban political dynamics and the role that governmental and nonprofit organizations play in the implementation of policy?
The second part focuses on specific policy areas. We include a broad array of issues, such as racial segregation, infrastructure, transportation, high housing costs, homelessness, crime, health problems, education, economic development and poverty. The areas are tied together by their focus on the spatial aspects of these problems and the policies directed at them. What does theory and research tell us about the ways in which location affects these problems and the ways in which these problems affect location decisions in turn? Students will gain substantial expertise in three of these areas and will be sufficiently familiar with the others so as to understand their many interactions.
Mastery of these areas requires some knowledge of contributions from a variety of disciplines, including political science, economics and sociology. Students will achieve substantial expertise in the urban subfield of one of the core social science disciplines, understand its theories regarding cities and be familiar with the leading empirical research.