Our Networked Nation: Transformation of the American Economic Landscape

By Alan M. Berger, Edward L. Glaeser, and Richard J. Zeckhauser


Casey L. Brown

Pippa Brashear

Gary Leggett

Gena Wirth


In this project, we explore our networked nation. A first goal is to illustrate the remarkable ways in which transportation and location are matched twins in so many industries. In some cases, production clusters near to final consumers to save on the costs of moving goods downstream. In other cases, production stays close to the natural endowment of basic commodities. In some cases, production is located in a few large plants. In other cases, production is spread widely. In all of these cases, the basic tools of economics can make sense of these production decisions. A second goal is to illustrate how location and transportation decisions impact the final consumption of different goods. By and large, reduced transport costs have led to a greater homogeneity across space in prices and consumption patterns, but there still are cases where there are different consumption patterns in different states of the union. The wild regional disparities in the consumption of Coke and Pepsi is only one particularly extreme example of this heterogeneity. Current and historical transport networks help to make sense of these phenomena.

Our third goal is to pay attention to the physical side of America. Even if all of America seems bent in living in medium density car cities in the sunbelt, there will still be coal mines in West Virginia and cattle ranching in Montana. These activities often have a large environmental footprint even if they employ small numbers of workers. We aim to examine that footprint. 

(not published)

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