GY400      Half Unit
The Economics of Urbanisation

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof John Henderson CKK 4.31


This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Economic Geography, MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Environmental Economics and Climate Change, MSc in Environmental Policy, Technology and Health (Environment and Development) (LSE and Peking University), MSc in Environmental Policy, Technology and Health (Environmental Economics and Climate Change) (LSE and Peking University), MSc in Geographic Data Science, MSc in Local Economic Development, MSc in Regional And Urban Planning Studies, MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Urbanisation and Development. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


No specific LSE course requirements. At a minimum, students should have an analytical course in micro-economics (or equivalent) and a basic statistics or econometrics course. 

Course content

This MSc course will offer students the opportunity to learn some of the conceptual foundations and empirical regularities involved in studying why countries urbanise, the nature of structural and spatial transformation involved in the urbanisation process and the development of systems of cities. Complementing this will be a study of the internal spatial transformation of cities, the evolution of the location of production activities, the formation and role of slums, and the evolution of land market regulations and property right assignments. Critical to understanding these processes will be learning about the role of regulation and political processes, as well as policy initiatives, in shaping outcomes. The course will also examine the current process of urbanisation in Asia and Africa in the various special contexts of different regions and countries, drawing from lessons of the past as experienced in Latin America and parts of the developed world.


20 hours of lectures and 20 hours of seminars in the WT.

The first three weeks of seminars will involve a review of basic statistical methods to help prepare students for class and lecture material.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the WT.

Indicative reading

Duranton G. (2008), 'Viewpoint: From cities to productivity and growth in developing countries', Canadian Journal of Economics, Vol. 41, No. 3, 689-736

Ghani E, S. O’Connell and E. Rossi-Hansberg (2014) 'The Spatial Development of India,' Journal of Regional Science, forthcoming

Henderson, J.V. T. Regan, and A. J. Venables (2017) “Building the city: urban transition and institutional frictions,” SERC and CERP working paper

Bertaud A and J Brueckner (2005) 'Analyzing building height restrictions: predicted impacts and welfare costs' Regional Science and Urban Economics, 35, 109-125

Donaldson D, (2017) 'Railroads of the Raj' American Economic Review, forthcoming 

Galiani S. and E. Schargrodsky (2011), 'The dynamics of land titling regularization and market development', United Nations University – World Institute for Development Economic Research, Working Paper No. 2011/88.


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours) in the spring exam period.
Presentation (30%) in the WT.

Key facts

Department: Geography and Environment

Total students 2022/23: 38

Average class size 2022/23: 19

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills