Urban economics in a historical perspective: Recovering data with machine learning

Pierre-Philippe Combes, Laurent Gobillon, Yanos Zylberberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


A recent literature has used a historical perspective to better understand fundamental questions of urban economics. However, a wide range of historical documents of exceptional quality remain underutilised: their use has been hampered by their original format or by the massive amount of information to be recovered. In this paper, we describe how and when the flexibility and predictive power of machine learning can help researchers exploit the potential of these historical documents. We first discuss how important questions of urban economics rely on the analysis of historical data sources and the challenges associated with transcription and harmonisation of such data. We then explain how machine learning approaches may address some of these challenges and we discuss possible applications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103711
JournalRegional Science and Urban Economics
Early online date13 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors have been funded with research grants only: ORA grant ES/V013602/1 (MAPHIS: Mapping History) and EUR grant ANR-17-EURE-0001 . There is thus no conflict of interest.

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Clément Gorin for very helpful discussions, as well as to Gilles Duranton and two anonymous reviewers for useful comments. The authors acknowledge the support of the ANR/ESRC/ SSHRC , through the ORA grant ES/V013602/1 (MAPHIS: Mapping History). Laurent Gobillon acknowledges the support of the EUR grant ANR-17-EURE-0001 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


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