The contribution of the urban sector to Australian economic development before 1914

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Abstract

This article examines the contribution of the urban sector to Australian economic development before the First World War. This contribution has often been seen in negative terms: contemporary observers generally thought that the major cities were too large and drained resources from the productive sectors of the economy, while some modern historians have portrayed cities as centres of poverty and environmental disamenity. The article evaluates these claims and presents a case for the urban sector having been a powerful stimulus to economic growth. The problems which Australian urbanization created did not stem from cities being too large, with more inhabitants than the number of well-paying jobs; rather, the general preference for low-density suburban living, and the ability of most of the population to be able to afford to live that way, meant that the cities would be expensive to build and difficult to service in a cost-effective way.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-73
Number of pages32
JournalAustralian Economic History Review
Volume38
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1998
Externally publishedYes

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