Monday, December 31, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Off-topic: Missed Doomsday Predictions

 Let's see how it will work out for Sir. Isaac Newton in 2060... 

[Chart by The Economist]

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's the end of the world ... and I feel fine

I don't know about you guys. But between the Mayan calendar and the Google Calendar, I'll keep my Google Calendar!

I saw this at Bizarro Blog, by Piraro.


The invention of GPS

He starts talking about the GPS invention at 12:10.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Global Challenges in Transport - short-course

I've posted about this opportunity before. Thanks Adam Dennett for the reminder.

[click on the image to enlarge it]

Urban Picture

circa 1938 by London Street Traders (via)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stupid Measures: Bizzare Economic Indicators

Every now and then, economists come up with a new  doubtful  brilliant indicator. The Big Mac Index and the Skyscraper Boom Indicator are among the most famous and actually serious indicators.

However, there is plenty of room for everyone! and here is a list of the 36 most bizzare economic indicators.

My favorites:
  • Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Cover Indicator
  • Men's Underwear Index
  • Aspirin and Tylenol Usage
  • Latvian Hooker Index
  • Alligator Population Index

Related Link: Stupid Measures tag

Urban sprawl in Latin America

Inostroza, L., Baur, R. & Csaplovics, E. Urban sprawl and fragmentation in Latin America: A dynamic quantification and characterization of spatial patterns. Journal of Environmental Management 115, 87–97 (2013).

South America is one of the most urbanized continents in the world, where almost 84% of the total population lives in cities, more urbanized than North America (82%) and Europe (73%). Spatial dynamics, their structure, main features, land consumption rates, spatial arrangement, fragmentation degrees and comparability, remain mostly unknown for most Latin American cities. Using satellite imagery the main parameters of sprawl are quantified for 10 Latin American cities over a period of 20 years by monitoring growth patterns and identifying spatial metrics to characterize urban development and sprawling features measured with GIS tools. This quantification contributes to a better understanding of urban form in Latin America. A pervasive spatial expansion has been observed, where most of the studied cities are expanding at fast rates with falling densities trend. Although important differences in the rates of land consumption and densities exist, there is an underlying fragmentation trend towards increasing sprawl. These trends of spatial discontinuity may eventually be intensified by further economic development. Urban Sprawl/Latin America/GIS metrics/spatial development.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Myths on Anging and old age

A short talk by Prof. George Leeson on the challenges of aging societies and a few myths on population anging .

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Actually, the world isn't flat

Or.... 'the world is not as globalized as we think'. 
A nice TedTalk by Pankaj Ghemawat (@PankajGhemawat).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Urban Centrality: A Simple Index

Warning: self promotional material  Recently published!

Pereira, R. H. M., Nadalin, V., Monasterio, L. and Albuquerque, P. H. M. (2012), Urban Centrality: A Simple IndexGeographical Analysis. doi: 10.1111/gean.12002


This study introduces a new measure of urban centrality. The proposed urban centrality index (UCI) constitutes an extension to the spatial separation index. Urban structure should be more accurately analyzed when considering a centrality scale (varying from extreme monocentricity to extreme polycentricity) than when considering a binary variable (monocentric or polycentric). The proposed index controls for differences in size and shape of the geographic areas for which data are available, and can be calculated using different variables such as employment and population densities, or trip generation rates. The properties of the index are illustrated with simulated artificial data sets and are compared with other similar measures proposed in the existing literature. The index is then applied to the urban structure of four metropolitan areas: Pittsburgh and Los Angeles in the United States; São Paulo, Brazil; and Paris, France. The index is compared with other traditional spatial agglomeration measures, such as global and local Moran's I, and density gradient estimations.

World's fastest growing metro economies

The world's fastest growing metropolitan economies
[Image Credit: The Economist]

Related Links:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Brazil's Largest Metropolitan Economies

The Brookings Institute has just published some economic snapshots of Brazil's largest metro areas (which 'rank among the world’s 300 largest metropolitan economies'). All profiles are available in English and in Brazilian Portuguese.

Related Link: The top metropolitan economy in the world in 2012 (Interactive)

Soundtrack: stutterer in love (1931)

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Richest Cities in the US in 1978 and Now

A study by McKinsey Global Institute showing the richest metros in the US in 1978 and now (via Jordan Weissmann).

[Click on the image to enlarge it]

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

A reply on 'Malthus and Potatoes'

In an earlier post I mentioned that Malthus didn't count on Potatoes. Actually, Prof. John R. Weeks (who writes an excellent blog, by the way), has pointed me an excerpt of Malthus' book where he acknowledges the role of potatoes on the population growth of Ireland during the 17th Century and the first half of the 18th Century (before the Irish Potato Famine). Thank you John!

The details of the population of Ireland are but little known. I shall only observe therefore, that the extended use of potatoes has allowed of a very rapid increase of it during the last century. But the cheapness of this nourishing root, and the small piece of ground which, under this kind of cultivation, will in average years produce the food for a family, joined to the ignorance and depressed state of the people, which have prompted them to follow their inclinations with no other prospect than an immediate bare subsistence, have encouraged marriage to such a degree, that the population is pushed much beyond the industry and present resources of the country; and the consequence naturally is, that the lower classes of people are in the most impoverished and miserable state. The checks to the population are of course chiefly of the positive kind, and arise from the diseases occasioned by squalid poverty, by damp and wretched cabins, by bad and insufficient clothing, and occasional want. To these positive checks have, of late years, been added the vice and misery of intestine commotion, of civil war, and of martial law. (Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, II.X.38)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Land use dynamics in the Brazilian Amazon

With the increasing importance of environmental issues on the international agenda, the Brazilian Amazon is receiving increasing attention from the scientific community. Although I am not particularly involved in environmental issues, I'd like to share with you some papers on land use dynamics in the Brazilian Amazon.

The first five papers of the list are authored by a few colleagues of mine from Ipea (Institute for Applied Economic Research, Brazil).

  1. Weinhold et al (2011) Soybeans, poverty, and inequality in the Brazilian Amazon

  2. Guedes et al (2011) Ecological Endowments, Poverty Dynamics, and Land Use among Smallholders in the Brazilian Amazon

  3. Barbieri and Guedes (2012) Demographic dynamics, livelihoods and land use change in the Brazilian Amazonia: a longitudinal study for the Machadinho Region, 1985 to 2010

  4. Sydenstricker-Neto (2012) Population and deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: a mediating perspective and a mixed-method analysis

  5. Andersen et al (2002) The dynamics of deforestation and economic growth in the Brazilian Amazon

Related Link:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Urban Picture

Hong Kong | China (by Coolbiere. A.)

(Source: travelingcolors)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Malthus didn't count on Potatoes

Here is one interesting paper that is mentioned at Banerjee and Duflo's book 'Poor Economics':

We exploit regional variation in suitability for cultivating potatoes, together with time variation arising from their introduction to the Old World from the Americas, to estimate the impact of potatoes on Old World population and urbanization. Our results show that the introduction of the potato was responsible for a significant portion of the increase in population and urbanization observed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. According to our most conservative estimates, the introduction of the potato accounts for approximately one-quarter of the growth in Old World population and urbanization between 1700 and 1900. Additional evidence from within-country comparisons of city populations and adult heights also confirms the cross-country findings.

Another loophole in your Theory, Sr. Malthus....

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Labor Shortages and Immigration Policy

Martin Ruhs and Lucie Cerna (both from COMPAS) give short talks on immigration policy, labor shortages and highly skilled migrant workers.

The subject of labor shortage in the engineering sector has been receiving an increasing attention in Brazil in the last decade. As we argue here, easing immigration rules to attract foreign engineers might be important to alleviate some local bottlenecks. However, it falls far short of what is needed to properly deal with this issue on a national scale.

If Brazilian authorities are considering taking concrete initiatives to deal with an eventual shortage of engineers in the country, then they should be aware of the following points before choosing any particular policy:

1.      There is a clear labor market matching problem: only three out of ten people with engineering degree actually work in a typical engineering occupation;

2.      Academic drop-out rates are remarkably high among engineering students (51% for women and 59% for men). Besides, addressing this issue is the only way to ensure short-term results;

3.      Possibly, the problem lies rather in education quality than in the quantity of students that the Brazilian education system is able to 'produce';

4.      Any rapid expansion in student intakes could compromise even further potential quality problems and yet, it would only yield results after six or seven years;

5.      Easing immigration rules to attract foreign engineers might play an important role to alleviate some local bottlenecks. However, it falls far short of what is needed to properly deal with this issue nationally;

6.      Finally, we draw attention that the claimed shortage of engineers in the country might not be a matter of purely quantitative supply, rather the spatial concentration of engineering schools and labor force play a rather important role in this debate.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Assorted Links

Chart of the day: Chinese baby boomers

Poor Economics

I have just finished reading Poor Economics, a book by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo (both professors of Economics at MIT).* It brings into a sharp perspective the complex economic lives of the poor and the failure of some anti-poverty policies. It also brings up several creative studies, including some that have used randomized controlled trials. It's a really good reading! 

There is a website of the book where you can have a glimpse of it and explore interactive charts. Or, you may watch a short presentantion by Esther Duflo:

*Thank you Lucas Mation for the gift!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nate Silver's prediction the US election results

You' ve probably heard about Nate Silver by now - a young statistician that has been incredibly accurate at predicting baseball outcomes AND the 2008 and 2012 US presidential election results (More about this at Simply Statistics Blog).

He uses a bayesian approach to combine data from several polls and historical data to predict election outcomes. Nate Silver gave 'an interview' last month for Tim Harford where he explains shortly about bayesian statistics and his predictions for the US elections.

How good were his predictions?
[Image Source: Simply Statistics]

Soundtrack: I can't stop humming the bassline of this song.

Can mass transit really save the Environment?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A cellular automata intraurban model with prices and income-differentiated actors

Bernardo A. Furtado (a friend of mine from Ipea) have recently published this paper that I'd like to share with you:

A cellular automata intraurban model with prices and income-differentiated actors 
Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 39(5) 897 – 924

This paper presents an intraurban cellular automata model that is an extension to White and Engelen’s pioneering model. The paper’s main contribution is to distinguish between agglomerative effects, determined by the attraction of the neighbourhood, and disagglomerative effects, driven by land prices, or land affordability. In order to do that, social heterogeneity is introduced in the model at the intraurban level. As a result, we can simulate both the evolution of land use and land prices. An application of the model and a sensitivity analysis indicate that neighborhood influence is the main driving force of cities’ spatial configurations. Prices, however, exert an important countereffect. Actually, the higher the influence of land prices, the faster land succession is observed. Finally, an important conclusion of the model is that intraurban models should not fail to differentiate actors by income level.

Evolution of actors in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte (Brazil), 1900-2000

[Image Credit: Furtado et al (2012) ]

Related Links:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Urban Picture

Beautiful (and somewaht scary) photos by Michael Wolf.
(via my great teacher Telmo Amand Ribeiro)

I really liked this one.

Enjoy you weekend!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Message of the Day

obs. No, this is not the subtitle of this blog  although it could be 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

CAMUSS Symposium

For those interested in cellular automata models, you may watch a live broadcast of the CAMUSS* Symposium (November 8–10) here.

*Camuss - International Symposium on Cellular Automata Modeling for Urban and Spatial Systems

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chart of the Day

As a general rule, urbanization goes hand in hand with economic growth. But general rules are made to be broken. This chart was taken from the latest World Development Report (2013 p.53).

[Image Credit: The Economist]

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Global forecasts of urban expansion

A cutting edge study by Karen C. Seto (Yale) and others on urban growth projections around the world and some of its environmental impacts (via  Urbanization Project). Read a briefing of the study here or here.

"[...] despite projections that world urban populations will increase to nearly 5 billion by 2030, little is known about future locations, magnitudes, and rates of urban expansion. Here we develop spatially explicit probabilistic forecasts of global urban land-cover change and explore the direct impacts on biodiversity hotspots and tropical carbon biomass. If current trends in population density continue and all areas with high probabilities of urban expansion undergo change, then by 2030, urban land cover will increase by 1.2 million km2, nearly tripling the global urban land area circa 2000."

Immigration policy in the UK

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quote of the day

"You tell me the size of any city in the United States and I can tell you with 80 to 90 percent accuracy almost everything about it. The scaling laws tell you that despite all of the efforts of planners, geographers, economists, architects, and politicians, and all of the local history, geography, and culture, somehow cities end up having to obey these scaling laws. We need to be aware of those forces when we design and redesign cities." (Geoffrey West)

Soundtrack for the weekend: Jazz for Cows

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Oxford short-course on Sustainable Transport

Spread the words!

From March 2013, the University of Oxford is launching a short-course programme in sustainable transport - Global Challenges in Transport Programme (more info here).

The programme offers 6 intensive, 4-day residential courses covering a range of topics:
  • New Technologies and Changing Behaviours;
  • Governance, Policy and Local Delivery;
  • Global Networks and Logistics;
  • Infrastructure, Development and Finance;
  • Health, Wellbeing and Urban Mobility; and
  • Energy and Climate Change.

Needless to say it sounds a great opportunity.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Immigration and regional inequality in Brazil

A new paper by Irineu and Leo Monasterio. Congrats!

Immigration and the origins of regional inequality: Government-sponsored European migration to southern Brazil before World War I.


This paper studies the long-term consequences of the government-sponsored programs of European immigration to Southern Brazil before the Great War. We find that the municipalities closer to the original sites of nineteenth century government sponsored settlements (colônias) have higher per capita income, less poverty and dependence on Bolsa Família cash transfers, better health and education outcomes; and for the areas close to German colonies, also less inequality of income and educational outcomes than otherwise. Since that is a reduced form relationship, we then attempt to identify the relative importance of more egalitarian landholdings and higher initial human capital in determining those outcomes. Our findings are suggestive that more egalitarian land distribution played a more important role than higher initial human capital in achieving the good outcomes associated with closeness to a colônia.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Short talks on Longevity and Prospective age

A short talk on Longevity by Sarah Harper (Oxford).

This reminds me to mention the concept of "prospective age" by Sanderson and Scherbov (2005, 2010). Some countries are actually rejuvenating! Here is a five-minute talk by Scherbov on the topic.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Urban Picture

Shibuya (Tokyo) in 1952 (via PD Smith)

...and today

Monday, October 8, 2012

Charter Cities (and Paul Romer) in 15 min.

Alex Tabarrok summarizes in 15 min. the contribution of Paul Romer to Development Economics and his idea about the Charter Cities.

related link: Honduran charter cities in troubled muddy waters (here and here)