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CEP discussion paper

City of Dreams


Higher ability workers benefit more from bigger cities while housing costs there are higher for everyone, and yet there is little sorting on ability. A possible explanation is that young individuals have an imperfect assessment of their ability, and, when they learn about it, early decisions have had a lasting impact and reduce their incentives to move. We formalize this idea through an overlapping generations model of urban sorting by workers with heterogenous ability and self-confidence, with the latter defined as individuals’ assessment of their own ability. We then test the location patterns predicted by the model over the life cycle on panel data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. We find that the city-size choices of individuals at different stages vary with ability and self-confidence in a way that closely matches our theoretical predictions.


Jorge De la Roca, Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano and Diego Puga

8 October 2014     Paper Number CEPDP1305

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