FALL 2002


Professor: Robert Wassmer, Ph.D.

E-Mail: or 

Home Page:

Office: Room 3037, Tahoe Hall.

Office Phone: (916) 278-6304.

Office Hours: Wednesday and Thursday, 4:00-6:00 p.m. and if necessary by appointment.

Course Held: Tahoe-1027, Saturday from 9:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. on November 2, 9, 16, 23, and December 7 and 14.

Required Texts:

(1) Urban Economics, 2003, Fifth Edition, Arthur O’Sullivan, McGraw-Hill Irwin.  available for purchase at CSUS bookstore or on web at Amazon.Com.

(2) Readings in Urban Economics: Issues and Public Policy, 2000, Robert W. Wassmer, Blackwell. Available for purchase at CSUS bookstore or on web at Amazon.Com.

(3) Writing Literature Reviews: A Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Jose L. Galvan, Pyrczak. Available for purchase at CSUS bookstore or on web at Amazon.Com.

Internet Access:

Occasionally I will also ask you to read material from the Internet. I will also post outlines for each time we meet and brief answers to hw questions at my web site. Thus, access to the Internet is also required for this class. If you do not have it at work or home, access is provided to students at the university library.


This course is structured around some of the most pressing problems facing central cities and urban areas in the United States (poverty, crime, urban abandonment/suburban sprawl, edge cities, deteriorating infrastructures, fiscal stress, etc.). The historic development of each problem is discussed, the economics behind it is presented, and possible policy solutions are discussed. The first half of the course deals with the shape and look of U.S. metropolitan areas. The second half of the course deals with contemporary issues and problems within U.S. metropolitan. Examples are drawn from California and Sacramento.

PPA 251 is intended to be an elective for graduate students in the MPPA program, for graduate students in economics (cross listed as ECON 251), for undergraduate majors in economics, and for others who satisfy the prerequisite of a course in intermediate microeconomics (PPA 220A or ECON 100B at CSUS).

The course consists of one 5 1/2 hour meeting a week. We will take a 10 minute break at 10:30 am, and a 45 minute break at 12 p.m. Given that we only meet 6 times, it is very important that you attend all meetings. Each Saturday I will require you to hand in a well-developed question from readings assigned for that week.  This question is not due the first time we meet, but will be due every subsequent time.  (On the first night of class I will provide an example of a question that could have been written for the first meeting.) You will also be asked to complete written exercises out of the assigned texts and to sometimes prepare short position papers. Your questions, exercises, and position papers can only be turned in on the Saturday that they are due (no exceptions). This acts as a form of attendance. I will assign an overall grade of "A", "A-", B+", ..., "C", "C-", or "F" (not turned in) for each of these weekly assignments.

I would very much like to conduct this class in an active learning format. In my mind this consists of about half lecture and half organized discussion amongst ourselves. To do this you will need to complete all of the assigned reading before the night it is covered. Thus, my emphasis on completing summaries, exercises, and position papers; and rewarding those who do a good job at it.

Questions and comments pertaining to lecture are encouraged during the lecture. Other questions will be answered during my office hours. Office hours can also be used to handle a complaint or suggestion on how the class is taught; a general discussion of economics and policy, the public policy and administration program, or your career plans.

Examination Procedure:

There will be a literature review of an urban public policy topic of your choice due on December 14.  We will talk about the format of this report in class through the use of the Writing Literature Reviews text.  There will also be a take-home examination given out at the close of the December 14 lecture that will be due in the main PPA office by December 20.  The final take home exam will be cumulative and it is intended for only individual completion. Material for exams will be taken out of assigned reading, lecture, and homework.

Grading Procedure:

Exam grades will be calculated using the following formula:

100-94 A+ 4.3
93-89 A 4.0
88-84 A- 3.7
83-79 B+ 3.3
78-74 B 3.0
73-69 B- 2.7
68-64 C+ 2.3
63-59 C 2.0
58-54 C- 1.7
53-40 D 1.0
<40 F 0.0

A number grade will be assigned to everything you do. Your final grade will be calculated based on these number grades.

The grade given your literature review accounts for 30 percent of your final grade. The average of the grades given on your five Saturday assignments accounts for 30 percent of your final grade. The final exam accounts for 30 percent of your final grade. Classroom participation accounts for the remaining 10 percent of your final grade. 

University policy for dropping this course will be followed. You must complete the final exam to receive a passing grade.


The following schedule lists the major topics covered and the assigned reading that accompanies them. I reserve the right to make minor changes. (For instance I may add a few readings from Internet Sources.)

I realize there is a lot of reading for each week.  In especially the case of O'Sullivan, I will only touch upon the high points in the assigned chapters.  Do your best in skimming chapters and getting a feel for what is covered before coming to class.

November 2      
Background Introduction O'Sullivan 1
  Why Do Cities Exist? O'Sullivan 2
  Where Firms Locate O'Sullivan 4
  Market Areas O'Sullivan 5
  Urban Economic Growth O'Sullivan 6
Discussion Projecting Growth of Metro Wassmer 5
  Do Suburbs Need Cities? Wassmer 12
  Western Future Web Site Link  
November 9      
Background Land Rent O'Sullivan 7
  Land Use in Mono City O'Sullivan 8
  Land Use in Modern Cities O'Sullivan 9
  Land Use Controls O'Sullivan 10
  Writing Reviews  Galvan 1
  Considerations in Writing Galvan 2
  Selecting a Topic Galvan 3
Discussion How America's Cities Grow Wassmer 9
  Prove It: C/B of Sprawl Wassmer 10
  Comment on Carl Abbott Wassmer  11
  Econ Perspective on Sprawl Link  
November 16      
Discussion Ohio Looks Hard  Wassmer 13
  Jobs, Productivity, Local Wassmer 14
  Sports, Jobs, and taxes Wassmer 15
Background General Guidelines Galvan 4
  Analyzing Literature Galvan 5
  Synthesizing Literature Galvan 6
  Writing a First Draft Galvan  7
  Autos and Highways O'Sullivan 11
  Mass Transit O'Sullivan 12
Discussion Motorists Always Outsmart Wassmer 32
  You Ride, I'll Pay Wassmer  33
  Urban Traffic Congestion Wassmer  34
  SACOG Transport Plan Link  
November 23      
Background Developing Coherent Essay Galvan 8
  Style, Mechanics, Languag Galvan 9
  Incorporating Feedback Galvan 10
  Editing Checklist Galvan 11
  Household Sorting  O'Sullivan 13
  Urban Poverty O'Sullivan 14
Discussion Big U.S. Cities Carry Welfare Wassmer 17
  Race Panel Divided Wassmer 18
  Inner Cities Wassmer  20
  Sac Regional Disparities Link  
December 7      
Background Urban Education O'Sullivan 15
  Urban Crime O'Sullivan 16
Discussion Why I'm Backing Vouchers Wassmer 22
  Current Issues in Public Sch Wassmer 23
  Why So Hard to Help Wassmer 24
  Urban Crime: Issues Wassmer 30
  Estimating Model of Crime Wassmer  31
  U.S. City/Suburb Crime Stat Link  
  California Crime Stat Link  
December 14      
  Literature Review Due    
  Catch up    
Background Why is Housing Different? O'Sullivan 17
  Housing Policies O'Sullivan 18
Discussion Miracle in New Orleans Wassmer 25
  Urban Housing Policies 1990s Wassmer 26
  Sac Housing Ordinance Link  
  Sac Housing Facts Link  
  AB 680 Report Link  
  Final Exam Given Out    
December 20 Final Exam Due    

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