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City Success: Theories of Urban Prosperity

Choosing the right path to success is one of the most important decisions urban leaders will make. City Success report, published by CEOs for Cities, is a comprehensive review of the principal theories of urban success divided into three categories: Theories of Firms, Theories of People and Theories of Place.

The objectives of this work are to develop an outline of the principal theories of urban success that are guiding efforts to revitalize U.S. metro areas today, describe their basic implications for policy, and analyze the underlying arguments and evidence for each theory. The report begins with some general observations and advice to policymakers about how to be good consumers of alternative theories. The body of the report surveys the broad scope of theories that have been offered about cities, dividing them into three principal groups: theories about firms, theories about people and theories about place. The focus is on urban economies, and the term cities is used throughout this paper to refer to entire metropolitan areas, not merely the central political jurisdiction. The objective is to explain how entire metropolitan areas prosper or stagnate. As a result, the report doesn’ t directly touch on issues of the distribution of economic activity within metropolitan economies (although many of these theories bear on that question as well).


Theories of Firms

  • Business Climate City
  • Headquarters City
  • Diversified City
  • Technology & Transport City
  • Government City
  • Cluster City
  • Entrepreneurial City

Theories of People

  • Human Capital City
  • Gateway City
  • Connected City
  • Creative City

Theories of Place

  • Attraction City
  • Amenity City
  • Consumer City
  • Green City
  • Distinctive City
  • Sorting City
  • Megapolitan City


City Success: Theories of Urban Prosperity (PDF file)