The City and the Virus, redux

I’ve got a published in Urban Studies. You can read the whole thing here: it’s open access.

I say new — it’s actually an extensive update and rebuild of this long blogpost I did in 2020. Not much of the original is left — I’ve fully updated and extended the data, reviewed the large evidence base that’s since appeared, and updated the future-gazing.

The last part in particular benefited from talks / interviews I gave at LSE (here), SAD (here) and Koozarch (here).

Here’s the abstract to give you a flavour of the thing:

Cities around the world are the epicentres of the coronavirus pandemic: both in the first wave, as the disease spread from East Asia, and now, as many countries enter a third wave of infections. These spatial patterns are still far from properly understood, though there is no shortage of possible explanations. I set out the emerging theories about cities’ role in the spread of coronavirus, testing these against existing studies and new analysis for English conurbations, cities and towns. Both reveal an urbanised public health crisis, in which vulnerabilities and health impacts track (a) urban structural inequalities, and (b) wider weaknesses in institutions, their capabilities and leaders.

I then turn to ‘post-pandemic’ visions of future cities. I argue that this framing is unhelpful: even with mass vaccination, COVID-19 is likely to remain one of many globalised endemic diseases. Instead, ‘pandemic-resilient’ urban places will require improved economic, social and physical infrastructure, alongside better public policy. Describing such future cities is still highly speculative: I identify five zones of change.

If you decide to go on, happy reading!



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Max Nathan

Max Nathan


UCL & CEP. Co-founder @centreforcities and @whatworksgrowth. Urbanism, economics, innovation, migration and public policy. My views. I’m at