Infrastructure and Land Policies

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy recently publishedInfrastructure and Land Policies: Proceedings of the 2012 Land Policy Conference:


The critical importance of infrastructure in global cities – including new strategies in its development, financing, and maintenance – is examined in the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s latest publication, Infrastructure and Land Policies.

The volume addresses energy (electricity and natural gas), telecommunications (telephone and Internet), transportation (airports, railways, roads, seaports, and waterways), and water supply and sanitation (drinking water, irrigation, and wastewater treatment).

More than 50 percent of the global population resides in urban areas where land policy and infrastructure interactions facilitate economic opportunities, affect the quality of life, and influence patterns of urban development.

While infrastructure is as old as cities, technological changes and public policies on taxation and regulation produce new issues worthy of analysis, ranging from megaprojects and greenhouse gas emissions to involuntary resettlement.

Infrastructure and Land Policies, edited by Gregory K. Ingram and Karin L. Brandt, is based on the seventh annual Land Policy Conference at the Lincoln Institute held in 2012, where economists, social scientists, urban planners, and engineers convened to discuss how infrastructure issues impact low-, middle-, and high-income countries.

For urban areas, the challenges of balancing economic growth with infrastructure development, funding, and maintenance are reflected in debates about finance, regulation, and location and about the sustainable levels of infrastructure services.

Infrastructure services have technical and economic features such as economies of scale, externalities, and spillovers from users to nonusers that make many of these services difficult to provide as a normal private good. Because of these attributes, much infrastructure is provided either by public entities or privately with regulatory oversight. Infrastructure also delivers economic and poverty-alleviation benefits when it responds to demand and is provided efficiently.

Recent research is finding that inadequate infrastructure is associated with income inequality. This is likely linked to the delivery of infrastructure services to households, such as direct health benefits, improved access to education, and enhanced economic opportunities.

Because so much infrastructure is energy intensive, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other negative impacts need to address services such as electric power and transport. Bringing the management of infrastructure up to levels of good practice has a large economic payoff, and performance levels vary dramatically between and within countries. A necessary, but so far unmet, challenge is to convey to policy makers and voters that large economic returns can be derived from improving infrastructure performance and maintenance.

I have a Commentary on a chapter in this volume:

  • Levinson, David (2013)
    Commentary on “Infrastructure and Urban Development: Evidence from Chinese Cities”
    by Yan Song. Chapter 2 in Infrastructure and Land Policies: Proceedings of the 2012 Land Policy Conference. Editors Gregory K. Ingram and Karin L. Brandt. Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, Cambridge, Massachusetts.