Economist Edward Glaeser '84 Speaks to Upper School at Adams Lecture

On April 14, the Upper School was treated to the second Adams Lecture of the school year. This time, one of Collegiate’s own, Edward Glaeser ’84, was the speaker. Dr. Glaeser is an economist whose work focuses on cities and urban economics. Julian Fox ’11 introduced Dr. Glaeser, and spoke of his accomplishments including his recent book, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, which has been very well received.

Dr. Glaeser gave a lively and extremely informative talk. He believes that cities have the advantage of density, proximity, and closeness which makes them more economically successful than rural areas. More people are moving into metropolitan areas than away from them, which is the opposite of what happened in the nineteenth century. Dr. Glaeser spoke of an interesting paradox: he said that “even though we live in an age where it is effortless to communicate, people choose to be close to one another.” In addition, he said that there are three key elements of a successful city: small firms, smart people, and connection to the outside world. Throughout history, New York City has always had these elements present and has been able to reinvent itself through constant innovation. This is in direct opposition to a city such as Detroit. At one time, New York’s main industry was garment manufacturing. When that disappeared, finance took its place. Detroit, on the other hand, has one industry – automobiles – that, when it went into decline, was not replaced with another sustainable industry. Dr. Glaeser noted that New York City came back because of its investment in people and that in New York City, "knowledge is more important than space." Detroit, instead, invested in its infrastructure. When jobs in Detroit disappeared, so did the people. Even if the infrastructure of the city is sound, there must be people there to use it.

After the talk, Dr. Glaeser answered questions from the boys, which continued at a well-attended seminar immediately following the assembly.