A study finds that the more beautiful a city is, the more successful it is at attracting jobs and new residents, including highly educated ones

In a phenomenon economists call the beauty premium, better-looking people tend to earn more money and are more successful at their careers. But do cities also benefit from a beauty premium? According to a new study by two urban economists, it seems that they do.

The study by Gerald A. Carlino of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Albert Saiz of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, examines the connection between a city’s beauty and key growth indicators. A raft of previous studies have found a connection between economic and population growth and urban amenities (a broad category ranging from parks to restaurants, art galleries, and museums). But this study takes a much closer look at the effects of beauty itself.

Carlino, GA,  Saiz, A.  Beautiful city: Leisure amenities and urban growth. J Regional Sci.  2019; 1– 40. 

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jors.12438

Abstract: Modern urban economic theory and policymakers are coming to see the provision of consumer‐leisure amenities as a way to attract population, especially the highly skilled and their employers. However, past studies have arguably only provided indirect evidence of the importance of leisure amenities for urban development. In this paper, we propose and validate the number of tourist trips and the number of crowdsourced picturesque locations as measures of consumer revealed preferences for local lifestyle amenities. Urban population growth in the 1990–2010 period was about 10% points (about one standard deviation) higher in a metro area that was perceived as twice more picturesque. This measure ties with low taxes as the most important predictor of urban population growth. “Beautiful cities” disproportionally attracted highly educated individuals and experienced faster housing price appreciation, especially in supply‐inelastic markets. In contrast to the generally declining trend of the American central city, neighborhoods that were close to central recreational districts have experienced economic growth, although at the cost of minority displacement.

Keywords: amenitiesinternal migrationurban population growth