September 9, 2015

Penn IUR Urban Book Talk with John McDonald: Chicago, An Economic History

past event


On September 9th Professor Emeritus from the University of Illinois, Department of Economics and Penn IUR Scholar, John McDonald, shared several insights of the economic history of Chicago from the mid-1800’s through the 1960’s.  McDonald committed his academic career to studying this topic and recently published “Chicago, an Economic History”.  Throughout this presentation, McDonald shared personal stories, connections, and observations of Chicago’s growth and decline. McDonald described the city of Chicago as a “node and critical connection to network externalities.”  He explained political conditions that promoted growth and settlement in the mid-1800’s; development of infrastructure and rail lines which connected the midwest to the east coast and to agriculture further west and south through the early 1900’s; and the impact wars had on local manufacturing and job creation in the early to mid-20th century.  In recent decades the city has been in a catastrophic urban decline since the creation of highways around the urban center.  McDonald concluded his presentation on the shifting demographic and residential decline in the surrounding suburbs. McDonald’s book is on sale at the Penn Bookstore or Amazon, “Chicago, An Economic History” Routledge, 2015).


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