Urban Amenities: Lakes, Opera, and Juice Bars: Do They Drive Development?

January, 2003


Several theories of the new politics and new economy suggest that amenities drive urban development. Do they? Two new amenity measures affect population growth differently. Natural amenities include six components like moderate temperature and water while constructed amenities include opera, juice bars, museums, and Starbucks.

Do people move toward such amenities? Yes the total population does, controlling up to 20 variables in multiple regressions for 3,111 US counties. But subpopulations differ. College graduates are more numerous where there are fewer natural but more constructed amenities. The elderly are the opposite: they increase more with natural amenities, but less with constructed amenities. Residents filing high tech patents live in locations with more of both natural and constructed amenities.

Percent gays are stressed in recent work on urban high tech growth, but we found it had inconsistent or near zero relations with many factors plausibly explaining its dynamics.

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