Most people today know Paul Krugman as a columnist for the New York Times. But long before he became a public intellectual, Krugman was just another economic theorist looking to make his mark.
It is that Krugman who interests Anthony Rebours, a 2019-20 HOPE Center fellow and PhD student at the Université Paris 8.
“In the early 1990s, Krugman reintroduced geography into economic models, and in the process initiated a new era of interdisciplinary collaboration between economists and geographers,” Anthony says.
What we see today as a result is an overlap between economics and geography that Anthony calls “economic geography-geographical economics.”
Economists who take geography into account are interested in how economic agents choose to locate in space. For example, urban economists traditionally analyzed how people “consume” space. Households may choose to live in a particular location that balances the cost of a house with the cost of traveling from home to work and back again.
“They might want to live close to work. But houses close to employment centers are usually small and more expensive. So they find a happy medium in which the combined costs of housing and transportation are acceptable. They act on their preferences to live closer to work or to have a bigger house and a bigger property,” Anthony explains.
In his research, Anthony uses a fairly new approach known as bibliometric and network analysis. Relying heavily on citations, the approach allows him to explore the connections between economics and geography and to identify the major figures who form the center of research communities.
Anthony began his research by looking at the development of a field of economics known as urban economics, which entered the mainstream of the discipline in the 1970s. That interest brought him to Duke for his first visit in 2017. Duke contains the papers of Robert Solow and Paul Samuelson, two Nobel Prize winners, who were Krugman’s teachers when he was a PhD student at MIT. Anthony wanted to see if there was any correspondence with Krugman in the archives. He didn’t find any letters, but the exploration confirmed something Anthony had suspected: Krugman’s interest in geographical issues was preceded at MIT by Solow, who edited a collection of articles on urban economics in 1968 and produced important works in the field until the early 1970s.
Anthony is struck by how Duke is almost a little city in itself. “Restaurants galore, and the library is open at almost all hours. I don’t even have to leave campus to drink beer and watch soccer,” he says.
Anthony will return to Paris in April.