Book from Kinder Institute fellow discusses contrasting urban environments

A new book from a fellow at Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research examines how modern cities are changing and what types of cities people prefer to inhabit.

Book cover for "Market Cities, People Cities" and pictures of authors.“Market Cities, People Cities: The Shape of Our Urban Future” (New York University Press, 256 pages, $30) was authored by Michael Emerson, a Kinder Institute fellow and provost and professor of urban studies at North Park University, and Kevin Smiley, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Buffalo.

In the book, the authors examined ongoing changes in cities and argued that Western cities have separated into two distinct types: market cities and people cities. “Market” cities are focused on wealth, jobs, individualism and economic opportunities, while “people” cities focus on creating a high quality of life for their citizens and equality between citizens, with government investment in infrastructure and an active civil society.

Specifically, the authors examined differing urban trends through extended case studies of Houston (a market city) and Copenhagen, Denmark (a people city). They also drew on data from approximately 100 other cities and assessed how ongoing changes will impact future urban life.

The authors tracked the history of how these two types of cities were created and the differences in function for governments and residents. They also looked at various other topics, including transportation, the environment and inequality, and outlined how cities can adapt to become more market- or people-focused.

“Market cities and people cities are not just mere semantics; they describe fundamentally different approaches to building cities and they profoundly shape our experiences in them,” said Emerson, who has lived in both Houston and Copenhagen. “The fact is, we are different people depending on the type of city in which we reside.”

Emerson and Smiley said the book has substantial implications for residents and for future urban planning and city development.

“By understanding the different types of cities existing today — cities so different that their existence seems almost impossible to those not living there — we can begin better shaping the cities of tomorrow,” Smiley said.

The Kinder Institute will host a launch event for the book May 17 at 7 p.m. at Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative, 6500 South Main St., as part of its “Urban Reads” series. It will feature a discussion with Emerson and Smiley followed by a book signing. To register, visit

More information about the book is available at

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.