The Economics of Urbanization

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    The Economics of Urbanization

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Half the world's population now lives in cities, and in a few decades from now the world urban population will be larger than the entire global population today. This wave of urbanization affects an unprecedented number of people. It brings great opportunities, but also raises important societal and policy challenges.

    Advanced Bachelor

    In this course, you will be introduced to the economic forces that underpin urbanization and shape metropolitan areas. Along the way, you will be equipped with knowledge and skills that help answer questions such as: Why are firms and people moving to cities? How do we measure the performance of urban areas? What factors explain why some cities thrive, while others struggle? What can policy-makers do to improve the economic, social, and environmental performance of their cities? To understand these topics, students will participate in lectures, self-directed work, and several field visits.

    From humble beginnings as a bridge over the river Amstel, Amsterdam rose to prominence during the 17th century as a center of international trade. Today, Amsterdam is part of a large and prosperous metropolitan region at the heart of Europe, providing a unique base from which students can learn about cities. The Economics of Urbanisation is delivered by the Department of Spatial Economics at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, which is home to approximately 60 staff actively engaged in multi-disciplinary research and policy development. Publications by the Department’s staff are internationally recognised, ranking in the top 5% of institutions worldwide in relevant economic disciplines. Numerous staff also take on prominent advisory roles for government and media institutions.


    1.  To obtain a solid understanding of the economic mechanisms that drive urbanization, as well as those that determine why some cities are successful and why some are not. 
    2.  To obtain a clear understanding of policy challenges that metropolitan areas face, and the pros and cons of the instruments that can be used to tackle these challenges. 
    3.  To develop experience in conducting and presenting applied research, including valuation methodologies used in benefit-cost analysis. 

    Lectures; discussions; online learning


    • Policy discussion paper [40%] 
    • Research proposal [50%] 
    • Participation [10%] 


    • Amsterdam Zuidas Tour, in which students will learn about the history and future of one of the fastest growing urban centres in Europe. 
    • Amsterdam Economic Board, in which students will learn about policy issues with which Amsterdam is grappling at a regional level.

    Students and professionals in the field of Economics, Econometrics and Economic Geography. Our courses are multi-disciplinary and therefore are open to students and professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds.