Science - August 21, 2017

New chair Urban Economics

Roelof Kleis

The chair group Economics of Consumers and Households will now be known as Urban Economics. Alumna Eveline van Leeuwen is the new chair holder.

© Peter Gerritsen

Van Leeuwen (1978) is currently an associate professor at the VU in Amsterdam. At the beginning of October she’ll come to Wageningen to take the place of Gerrit Antonides, who has retired. Van Leeuwen studied land use planning in Wageningen but did her PhD work in Amsterdam at the department of Spatial Economics under Piet Rietkamp.

Economic traffic
Van Leeuwen said that she was interested in economics even during her study of land use planning, which she completed in 2002. ‘I attended lectures by Wim Heijman, professor of Regional Economics, who also supervised my graduate subject. He’ll now be my colleague. Great. My graduate subject at LEI was also on regional economics: a study of so-called input and output tables. A matrix like that provides insight into the economic traffic among sectors in a certain area.’

A presentation of that research led to Van Leeuwen being asked by professor Peter Nijkamp to come to Amsterdam for PhD work. ‘But I wasn’t ready, I still had another year to go. So I did my practical in Amsterdam.’ The practical was followed by her PhD thesis: Towns today; contemporary functions of small and medium-sized towns in the rural economy.

Interactions between city and countryside
'Together with colleagues elsewhere in Europe, we constructed a dataset with a wealth of information on the economic operation of households and companies in thirty regions spread across five countries,’ Van Leeuwen explained. ‘We asked questions about, for example, where people did their grocery shopping, where they worked, etc. Our goal was to make input and output tables to study the economic traffic. Such a matrix provides insight into the interactions between the city and the countryside.’ 

I enjoy my department at the VU, but it’s also my first job. I felt the need to work in new surroundings
Eveline van Leeuwen

Van Leeuwen has won diverse prizes with her master’s thesis and a number of her scientific articles. She also received an Aspasia grant from the NWO. When asked to apply for the new chair, she didn’t hesitate. ‘The subject is interesting, and I very much wanted to work in Wageningen. I enjoy my department at the VU, but it’s also my first job. I felt the need to work in new surroundings.’ 

Van Leeuwen will be working at Urban Economics. ‘These are actually all the economic systems focusing on the geographical entity of the city or the region. Yes, that’s a broad concept. The definition of a city is open-ended. I’m going to concentrate on the economics of sustainable consumption/healthy lifestyle (how people in the city make choices, which spatial determinants play a role in this) and economics and policy at the border between the city and the rural area.'  

Urban Economics will replace the existing chair of Economics of Consumers and Households. This is one of the smallest chair groups at Wageningen. During the most recent round of visitations, the chair group was given a score of three, which puts it in the rear in the research school of the social sciences WASS.

It’s not yet clear how van Leeuwen is going to approach her new appointment. ‘I at least want our research to be integrated into the surroundings of Wageningen and to be an addition to the existing chair groups. A lot of research into the city is already being done here and there, for example with regard to climate, urban farming and ecosystem services. So I first want to find out who is working on processes that take place in the city, which economic aspects are involved and where there are still questions. Then we can develop a good plan. I’m also very curious about the students’ education needs.’