The resilience of cities to COVID-19: A literature review and application to Dutch cities

Jeroen Van Haaren, Frank van Oort

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Urban agglomeration and accessibility advantages can quickly turn into disadvantages in a pandemic. In a globalized world of international trade and travel, a virus can spread at light speed, akin to the high rate of information and knowledge diffusion attributed to highly urbanized locations. In this chapter, we discuss how cities may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the medium to long run from the perspective of urban economics, focusing on the transmission of knowledge. We provide an overview of recent thoughts on the impact of the pandemic on urban economies and add a case study of the four largest cities in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht) in which we assess how the sector composition in these cities affects the ability of the workforce to switch to working from home and moving away from the highly prized interaction environments.

We show that a likely outcome of the pandemic is an increase in the spikiness of the economic geography of innovation and that the impulse given to digitization further increases the spatially selective transmission of information. To a degree (tacit), knowledge can be transmitted, as new levels of digital communications are now accessible that foster more personal forms of communication, including dialog (Castaneda and Toulson, Glob Knowl Memory Commun 70:673–683, 2021), reducing transmission costs. However, we also argue that this does not lead to a death of distance but quite the opposite: reduced transmission costs suggest, in line with what we know of previous waves of digitization, that ‘truly’ tacit knowledge that offers competitive advantage becomes scarcer and that urban locales that still offer efficiency advantages in the transmission of such knowledge are becoming scarcer as well. A key question for the future is whether the conditions that define where and how these spikes occur have remained the same or were altered in subtle ways.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe resilience of cities to COVID-19: A literature review and application to Dutch cities
EditorsPeter Nijkamp, Karima Kourtit, Guney Celbis
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-21983-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-21982-5
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Feb 2023


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