On 14 November, Stuart Donovan successfully defended his PhD thesis on Ties that bind and fray: Agglomeration economies and location choice at the Auditorium of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Promotors were Henri L.F. de Groot, Carl Koopmans, and Thomas de Graaff.

Why does an increasing share of the population live in cities? Why do some cities prosper and grow, while others struggle and decline? What can cities do to improve their prospects, and those of their inhabitants? These are the questions underlying Stuart Donovan’s dissertation, building on a body of literature that traces its historical roots to the start of the industrial revolution and the emergence of economics as a social science.

At a conceptual level, the contents of this dissertation are united by author’s desire to better understand the attributes that make some locations more attractive than others. To this end, this dissertation presents the results of research into agglomeration economies – that is, urban economic advantages and disadvantages – and considers how they influence the location choices of people and firms. These are the economic ties that bind us together in cities or, when they fray, split us apart. As well as enriching our understanding of these questions, this dissertation seeks to highlight the implications of these findings for urban policy and research.