Two years ago, my list of trade candidates also included a dozen candidates in spatial economics. Last year I listed 20 candidates. There are 45 spatial-economics JMCs in this year’s list. That looks like a rapid rise.
Of course, measurement problems abound. My view of “spatial economics” may have broadened during the last two years, in which case the listings would tell you more about me than about the candidates. That would be hard to quantify. But, to focus on one label within the broader spatial economics nexus, I’m pretty sure that I’m seeing more candidates explicitly list “urban economics” as one of their fields than in years prior.
If I’m right that the supply of spatial economists is rising, then one immediately wonders if the demand side will keep pace. I haven’t looked at JOE postings, but I doubt that ads mentioning “urban economics” are growing at the same rate as candidates listing it as a field.
Last month, in response to a Beatrice Cherrier query about why urban economics’ “boundaries & identity are so difficult to pin down,” Jed Kolko noted that “urban economists typically align strongly to another field — trade, labor, PF, finance (esp the real estate types), macro.” That fluidity has advantages and disadvantages. It certainly makes it challenging to compile a list of relevant job-market candidates. But my very short time series of arbitrarily collated candidates suggests growth in the supply of young spatial economists.
A natural next question is why? Rich data surely a factor. Most data come with a geographic key. Work on neighbourhoods by Chetty et al and local labor markets by ADH, among others, lean hard into these geographic keys for identifying variation. Chetty even calls himself an urban economist now. I wonder if this simple fact regarding the construction administrative data has some important role to play in the way we ask questions.
There are definitely other possibilities. Another is that a field with no boundaries might just be interesting and ripe (e.g. your own AER paper on knowledge and last post on transportation). It may be he relatively low “barriers to entry” of urban relative to IO. Another driver could be advising. It would take some further investigation of the candidates to know.