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Why Children Born in Big Cities Earn More As Adults

Just being born in a big city has a positive effect on later-life wages, new research finds.
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Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

For the world’s cities, the advantages of size have only grown. Big, superstar cities attract more talent and have higher rates of productivity and innovation than smaller cities. And the people who work in these cities tend to make more money. But does simply being born in a big city confer a lifelong advantage?

That’s the question at the heart of a new study published in the Journal of Urban Economics. In the study, economists Clément Bosquet of the University of Cergy-Pontoise in France and Henry G. Overman of the London School of Economics use detailed data from the British Household Panel Survey to track the connection between the size of an individual’s birth city in Britain and their earnings as a working adult. The minimum sample (after cleaning) is 7,500 individuals aged 16 and older, interviewed multiple times from 1991 to 2009.