The Economics of Maps
AbstractFor centuries, maps have codified the extent of human geographic knowledge and shaped discovery and economic decision-making. Economists across many fields, including urban economics, public finance, political economy, and economic geography, have long employed maps, yet have largely abstracted away from exploring the economic determinants and consequences of maps as a subject of independent study. In this essay, we first review and unify recent literature in a variety of different fields that highlights the economic and social consequences of maps, along with an overview of the modern geospatial industry. We then outline our economic framework in which a given map is the result of economic choices around map data and designs, resulting in variations in private and social returns to mapmaking. We highlight five important economic and institutional factors shaping mapmakers' data and design choices. Our essay ends by proposing that economists pay more attention to the endogeneity of mapmaking and the resulting consequences for economic and social welfare.
CitationNagaraj, Abhishek, and Scott Stern. 2020. "The Economics of Maps." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 34 (1): 196-221. DOI: 10.1257/jep.34.1.196
- D83 Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
- R00 Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics: General