4th Urbanization and Poverty Reduction Research Conference
September 8, 2017Building or Rebuilding Cities for Growth

This conference hosted by the World Bank, George Washington University (Institute for International Economic Policy) and the International Growth Centre Cities Program brings together academics and development practitioners to present and discuss the challenges of sustainable urban development in developing countries.

One of the great challenges of 21st century cities in developing countries is that they must fulfill the requirements of connectivity in production for businesses and address the negative externalities for consumers of density with extremely limited financial resources and public capacity. This raises the following questions: What national policies strengthen and weaken developing world cities, and what infrastructure investments deliver the largest growth benefits? In particular, the aim of this conference will be to reflect upon how cities in developing countries should focus their efforts on improving their land and housing sector (see Session 1: Land), their transportation networks (see Session 2: Transportation) or their sanitation infrastructure (see Session 3: Public Services). In other words, how can we build, or rebuild, cities in the future in order to promote economic growth and reduce poverty?

The 3rd Urbanization and Poverty Reduction Research Conference took place on 1 February 2016. You can find the program of the conference here.

The 2nd Urbanization and Poverty Reduction Research Conference took place on 12 November 2014. You can find the program of the conference here.

The 1st Urbanization and Poverty Reduction Research Conference took place on 13 May 2013. You can find the program of the conference here.

Conference Organizers

Harris Selod, The World Bank

Rémi Jedwab, George Washington University

Edward Glaeser, Harvard University and International Growth Centre


For any inquiries regarding the event, please contact Elaine Wylie at


September 8, 2017

Download Agenda

08:30-9.00 Coffee and Registration  


Welcoming Remarks

Michael Toman, Research Manager, Energy and Environment, Development Research Group, The World Bank

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, The World Bank

CHAIR: William Maloney, Chief Economist, Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions, The World Bank 

Video: Opening Panel, Part 1


Edward Glaeser, Professor of Economics, Harvard and IGC

Craig Kesson, Executive Director for the Directorate of the Mayor, City of Cape Town, South Africa

Jennifer Musisi, Executive Director, Kampala Capital City Authority, Uganda

Paul Romer, Chief Economist and Vice-President, The World Bank

Video: Opening Panel, Part 2

10:45-11:00 Coffee Break
11:00 -12:30


Mini keynote: Land in the urban development agenda
Harris Selod, Development Research Group, The World Bank
Presentation | Video

Paper 1.1 Building the City: Sunk capital, sequencing, and institutional frictions
Anthony Venables (University of Oxford), joint with Vernon Henderson (LSE) and Tanner Regan (LSE)
Presentation | Video

Paper 1.2 On the Determinants of Slum Formation
Daniel da Mata (IPEA), joint with Tiago Cavalcanti (University of Cambridge) and Marcelo Santos (IIER)

CHAIR: Horacio Terraza, Lead Urban Specialist for the Latin American Region, The World Bank

DISCUSSANT: Alain Bertaud, NYU Urbanization Project


12:30-13:30 Lunch


Paul Romer, Chief Economist and Vice-President, The World Bank

CHAIR: Phil Hay, Communication Adviser, Development Economics, The World Bank


14:15 -15:45 


Mini keynote: Transport infrastructure in the urban development agenda
Somik Lall, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, The World Bank
Presentation | Video

Paper 2.1 Accessibility and mobility in urban India
Gilles Duranton (Wharton Business School)
Presentation | Video

Paper 2.2 Subways and urban air pollution
Matthew Turner (Brown University)

CHAIR: Marianne Fay, Chief Economist, Sustainable Development Vice-Presidency, The World Bank

DISCUSSANT: Leah Brooks, George Washington University


15:45-16:00  Coffee Break


Mini keynote: Urban sanitation in the urban development agenda
Rémi Jedwab (George Washington University)

Paper 3.1  Financing Sewers in the 19th Century’s Largest Cities: A Prequel for African Cities?
Robert Buckley (The Urban Institute)
Presentation | Video

Paper 3.2 Water, Health, and Wealth
Ed Glaeser (Harvard/IGC), with Nava Ashraf, Abraham Holland, and Bryce Steinberg

CHAIR: Michael Toman, Research Manager, Energy and Environment, Development Research Group, The World Bank

DISCUSSANT: Maisy Wong, The Wharton 


17:30-18:00 Break

COCKTAIL RECEPTION and welcome speech by Maggie Chen (George Washington University) 

At George Washington University, Lindner Commons Room (6th Floor) of the Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E St. N.W. (at the intersection of E and 19th Streets, on E Street), Washington, DC


(5 minutes by walk, map here)

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    Harris Selod

    Senior Economist, The World Bank
    Harris Selod is a Senior Economist with the Development Research Group of the World Bank. His current research focuses on urban development, including issues related to transport and land use, as well as land tenure, land markets and the political economy of the land sector in developing countries, with a specific interest in West Africa. His publications cover a variety of topics in urban and public economics including theories of squatting and residential informality, the political economy of transport infrastructure, the effects of residential segregation on schooling and unemployment, or the impact of land rights formalization and place-based policies. He has been chair of the World Bank’s Land Policy and Administration Thematic Group (2011-2013) and is currently leading a World Bank research program on transport. Prior to joining the World Bank in 2007, he was an associate professor at the Paris School of Economics and a researcher at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA). He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne and graduated from the Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l’Administration Economique (ENSAE).
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    Rémi Jedwab

    Associate Professor of Economics, George Washington University
    Rémi Jedwab is an assistant professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Elliott School and the Department of Economics of George Washington University. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the Paris School of Economics. He was also a visiting Ph.D. student at the London School of Economics for three years. Professor Jedwab's main field of research is urban economics, though his work also has strong development economics, economic history, trade, environmental economics and public economics themes. Some of the issues he has studied include urbanization and structural transformation, the economic effects of transportation infrastructure, and agricultural and economic development in the developing world, and Sub‐Saharan Africa in particular. His research has been published in the American Economic Review, the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Economic Journal, the Journal of Economic Growth and the Journal of Urban Economics. Recently, Professor Jedwab’s research areas have included the phenomenon of urbanization without economic growth, and his research has been highlighted by The Atlantic's CityLab and the Boston Globe.
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    Edward Glaeser

    Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, Harvard
    Edward Glaeser is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard, where he also serves as Director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. He studies the economics of cities, and has written scores of articles on urban issues, including the growth of cities, segregation, crime, and housing markets. He has been particularly interested in the role that geographic proximity can play in creating knowledge and innovation. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1992 and has been at Harvard since then.

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    Paul Romer

    Chief Economist and Senior Vice President, World Bank
    Dr. Paul Romer took office as the World Bank’s Chief Economist and Senior Vice President in October, 2016. Romer is on leave from his position as University Professor at New York University. His initial interest in technological progress led to research on topics ranging from an abstract analysis of how the economics of ideas differs from the economics of objects to practical suggestions about how to improve science and technology policy. More recently, his research on catch-up growth in low- and middle-income countries has emphasized the importance of government policies that encourage orderly urban expansion. Before NYU, Romer taught at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and while there, also started Aplia, an education technology company dedicated to increasing student effort. Romer has also variously taught economics at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and the University of Rochester.

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    Maggie Chen

    Professor of Economics, George Washington University, and International Institute for Economic Policy
    Maggie Xiaoyang Chen is the Director of the Institute for International Economic Policy and Professor of Economics and International Affairs at George Washington University. Professor Chen's areas of research expertise include foreign direct investment, international trade, and regional trade agreements and her work has been published extensively in academic journals. She has worked as an economist in the research department of the World Bank, a consultant for various divisions of the World Bank and the International Finance Cooperation, and a trade policy advisor at the U.S. congressional Budget Office leading policy analyses on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. She has also held visiting professor positions in various universities including Boston College and University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, China and is a co-editor of the Economic Inquiry. Professor Chen received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder and her B.A. in Economics from Beijing Normal University.
  • Marianne Fay

    Chief Economist, Climate Change Group, World Bank Group
    Marianne Fay is the chief economist for climate change at the World Bank. She co-directed the World Development Report 2010 on Climate Change. Ms. Fay has served in multiple regions in the World Bank, including Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa, working on infrastructure, urbanization, and more recently on climate change and green growth. Her research has explored the role of infrastructure and urbanization in development, with a particular focus on urban poverty, climate change, and green growth, on which she has authored numerous articles and books. As chief economist for sustainable development, she led the World Bank’s flagship report for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Inclusive Green Growth: The Pathway to Sustainable Development.
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    Phil Hay

    Communication Adviser, Development Economics, World Bank
    Phil Hay is Communications Adviser and Spokesman for the World Bank’s Chief Economist and his Development Economics team. Prior to this, he was the World Bank’s Communications Manager for Africa, managing communications teams across Africa and in Washington, DC. Prior to that he was Communications Adviser for the World Bank's Human Development Network. A former Special Correspondent and also a U.S Correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Hay is a frequent chair and moderator of global development conferences. Prior to joining the Bank, he was a widely published writer and commentator on development and international relations.
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    Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez

    Senior Director, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, The World Bank
    Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez leads a team of over 600 technical experts deployed across the world, leveraging global knowledge and collaborating with partners to help tackle the world’s most complex development challenges in: social inclusion and sustainability; mainstreaming resilience in all dimensions development; territorial and rural development; and urban planning, services and institutions. Before this, he was Director for Sustainable Development of the Latin America and Caribbean Region since November 2011, covering infrastructure, environment and climate change, social development, agriculture and rural development, disaster risk management, and urban development with an active portfolio of about $17 billion. From 2007 to 2011, he was based in Beijing, where he managed the Sustainable Development Unit for China and Mongolia. Earlier in his career, he managed the global trust-funded programs ESMAP and WSP in energy and water and sanitation, respectively. He has a Ph.D. and a M.Sc. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in civil and environmental engineering, with specialization in hydrology and water resources. He has been a lecturer at the Environmental Science and Policy Program at Johns Hopkins University, and at Tsinghua University.
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    Craig Kesson

    Executive Director for the Directorate of the Mayor, City of Cape Town, South Africa
    Craig Kesson is the City of Cape Town Executive Director for the Directorate of the Mayor as well as the Chief Resilience Officer, in partnership with the 100 Resilient Cities Programme. He has worked in several senior roles in city management and has advised a number of metro governments. He previously served as the National Director of Research for South Africa’s Official Opposition. He is a graduate of the University of KwaZulu Natal, the University of Stellenbosch Business School, the University of Liverpool, and the University of Oxford where he was a Rhodes Scholar. His specialisations are in public policy and strategy; project portfolios, and operations modelling. He is the co-author with Mayor Patricia De Lille of an upcoming book on the nature of city leadership and management planned for publication in August 2017.
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    William Maloney

    Chief Economist, Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions, World Bank
    William F. Maloney is Chief Economist for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions in the World Bank Group. Previously he was Chief Economist for Trade and Competitiveness and Global Lead on Innovation and Productivity. Prior to the Bank, he was a Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (1990-1997) and then joined, working as Lead Economist in the Office of the Chief Economist for Latin America until 2009. From 2009 to 2014, he was Lead Economist in the Development Economics Research Group. From 2011 to 2014 he was Visiting Professor at the University of the Andes and worked closely with the Colombian government on innovation and firm upgrading issues.
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    Jennifer Semakula Musisi

    Executive Director, Kampala Capital City Authority
    Jennifer Semakula-Musisi is the first Executive Director of the Kampala Capital City Authority that was established to administer Uganda’s Capital City-Kampala on behalf of the Central Government. Over the past six Years, Jennifer has headed the transformation of the City and initiated a number of activities that have enhanced efficiency in services delivery and paved way for the current steady Transformation of Kampala. The achievements over the period have become an admiration and a benchmark for many upcoming municipalities and Cities in East Africa and beyond. Jennifer is a lawyer by profession. She served as the Commissioner Legal Services and Board Affairs in Uganda Revenue Authority; and; she is an entrepreneur with several successful private businesses in Uganda.
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    Horacio Terraza

    Lead Urban Specialist for the Latin American Region, The World Bank
    Horacio has more than 20 years of professional experience in the urban-environmental field, having worked both in the private sector and multilateral development organizations. He has just rejoined the World Bank as Lead Urban Specialist for the Latin American Region focusing on cities and Resilience. During the previous 6 years he worked at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) as the Coordinator of the Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative (ESCI) and also as Principal Water Specialist. Before the IDB Horacio worked for 11 years as a Senior Environmental Specialist at the World Bank, leading the urban environmental agenda in the Latin American Department. Prior to that, he worked in the private sector as a Project Manager for environmental engineering companies providing treatment and final disposal of hazardous substances. Horacio was trained as a mechanical engineer at the National University of La Plata in Argentina and holds a Master’s in International Economics and International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
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    Michael Toman

    Research Manager, Environment and Energy Research Program, Development Research Group, The World Bank
    Michael Toman (Mike) is Lead Economist on Climate Change in the Development Research Group and Manager of the Energy and Environment Team. His current research interests include alternative energy resources, policies for responding to risks of climate change catastrophes, timing of investments for greenhouse gas reduction, and mechanisms for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through reduced deforestation. During his career Mike has done extensive research on climate change economics and policy, energy markets and policy, environmental policy instruments, and approaches to achieving sustainable development. Prior to joining the World Bank in fall 2008, he held senior analytical and management positions at RAND Corporation, Inter-American Development Bank, and Resources for the Future. His teaching experience includes adjunct positions at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the School of the Environment, University of California at Santa Barbara. Mike has a B.A. from Indiana University, a M.Sc. in applied mathematics from Brown University, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from the University of Rochester.

  • Robert Buckley

    Affiliated Scholar, Urban Institute
    Bob Buckley is an Affiliated Scholar at the Urban Institute. He was Managing Director at the Rockefeller Foundation, Advisor at the World Bank, and Senior Fellow at the New School. He has written widely on urbanization and development in both the popular press and academic journals, and has helped prepare projects in a variety of places.
  • Gilles Duranton

    Professor of Real Estate, Wharton School
    Gilles Duranton is professor of real estate and holds the Dean’s Chair in Real Estate. He joined the Wharton School in 2012 after holding academic positions at the University of Toronto and the London School of Economics. A graduate from HEC Paris and Sorbonne University, he obtained his PhD in economics jointly from the London School of Economics and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales in Paris. His research focuses on urban and transportation issues. His empirical work is concerned with urban growth and the estimation of the costs and benefits of cities and clusters. He is also interested in the effects of transportation infrastructure on urban development and the evaluation of local policies. He also conducts theoretical research to gain insight about the distribution of city sizes, the skill composition, and sectoral patterns of activities in cities.
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    Somik Lall

    Lead Economist, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, The World Bank
    Somik V. Lall is a Lead Economist for Urban Development at the World Bank's Urban Development and Resilience Unit in the Sustainable Development Network. He is the lead author of a World Bank report on urbanization "Planning, Connecting, and Financing Cities Now: Priorities for City Leaders." He was a core team member of the 2009 World Development Report "Reshaping Economic Geography", and recently Senior Economic Counsellor to the Indian Prime Minister's National Transport Development Policy Committee. Somik currently leads a World Bank program on the Urbanization Reviews, which provides diagnostic tools and a policy framework for policymakers to manage rapid urbanization and city development. His research interests span urban and spatial economics, infrastructure development, and public finance. He has over 40 publications featuring in peer reviewed journals, edited volumes, and working papers. Somik holds a bachelors degree in engineering, masters in city planning, and doctorate in economics and public policy.
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    Daniel da Mata

    Researcher, Institute for Applied Economic Research
    Daniel Da Mata is a Tenured Researcher at the Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea). He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Cambridge. Since joining Ipea in 2004, he has held several positions at the institute, including Head of Urban Studies and Head of Quantitative Research Division. His research on Urban, Public and Development Economics has been published in peer reviewed journals and book chapters. He has recently won the BMZ/GIZ Public Policy Award and the European Regional Science Association EPAINOS Award.
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    Matthew Turner

    Professor of Economics, Brown University
    Matthew Turner is a Professor of Economics at Brown University. He regularly teaches courses in urban and environmental economics, and occasionally, microeconomic theory. He is broadly interested in environmental and urban policy and his recent research focuses on the economics of land use and transportation. Professor Turner holds a Ph. D. in economics from Brown University and is a Co-Editor of the Journal of Urban Economics. His research appears in the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Review of Economic Studies and Econometrica, and is regularly featured in the popular press.
  • Anthony Venables

    Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford and Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies
    Tony Venables CBE is Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford where he also directs the Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies and a programme of research on urbanisation in developing economies. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Econometric Society. Former positions include Chief Economist at the UK Department for International Development, professor at the London School of Economics, research manager of the trade research group in the World Bank, and advisor to the UK Treasury. He has published extensively in the areas of international trade, spatial economics, and natural resources, including work on trade and imperfect competition, economic integration, multinational firms, and economic geography.

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    Alain Bertaud

    NYU Stern Urbanization Project
    Alain Bertaud is an Adjunct Professor at the Marron Institute and a senior research scholar at the NYU Stern Urbanization Project. At the moment, he is writing a book about urban planning that is tentatively titled Order Without Design. Bertaud previously held the position of principal urban planner at the World Bank. After retiring from the Bank in 1999, he worked as an independent consultant. Prior to joining the World Bank he worked as a resident urban planner in a number of cities around the world: Bangkok, San Salvador (El Salvador), Port au Prince (Haiti), Sana’a (Yemen), New York, Paris, Tlemcen (Algeria), and Chandigarh (India).
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    Leah Brooks

    Assistant Professor, Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, George Washington University
    Leah Brooks is Assistant Professor in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at the George Washington University. After receiving her PhD from UCLA in 2005, she taught at the University of Toronto and McGill University, and worked at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Her research interest is urban political economy. Her work to date has examined Business Improvement Districts to understand the resolution of collective action problems, and the Community Development Block Grant program to analyze the political economy of grant giving at the municipal and sub-municipal levels. She has documented the existence and analyzed the impacts of municipally-imposed tax and expenditure limits, studied the premium required to assemble land, analyzed the long-term effects of streetcars on urban form, and is hard at work examining the impact of containerization on cities.
  • Maisy Wong

    Associate Professor, Real Estate at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
    Maisy Wong is an Associate Professor of Real Estate at the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania. Her current research interests include household mobility and sorting behavior, urbanization in developing countries, and real estate finance. Her research has been published in journals such as the American Economic Review, Review of Economic Studies, AEJ: Applied Economics, and Journal of Finance. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, at Berkeley.
  • About the Venue
    The conference will be held at the World Bank's Headquarters, located at 1818 H Street, NW, Washington DC 20433, USA.
  • The North Lobby entrance to the World Bank is located on H St, NW, near the intersection of 18th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
  • The cocktail reception will take place at the Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E Street at the intersection of E and 19th Streets (Lindner Common Rooms, 6th Floor) - GWU (George Washington University). The link below will show you how to get from the World Bank MC building to 1957 E Street.

Event Details
  • Date: September 8, 2017
  • Location: Preston Auditorium, the World Bank, 1818 H Street, N.W., 20433 Washington D.C.