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    photo of
    T. William Lester
    Associate Professor Professor; Chair of the Curriculum Committee
    320 New East
    Chapel Hill, NC 27599
    work919.962.3512 (phone)
    fax919.962.5206 (fax)
    Bill Lester is an Associate Professor Professor at DCRP specializing in economic development. His research focuses on the role of labor market institutions in fostering greater equity at the urban and metropolitan scales. His is an expert on the impact of minimum wage and living wage policies on urban economic development.

    + Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
    + MUPP, University of Illinois at Chicago
    + B.A., University of Pennsylvania

    Research and practice

    Bill Lester is an Associate Professor at DCRP specializing in economic development. His research focuses on the role of labor market institutions in fostering greater equity at the urban and metropolitan scales.  His is an expert on the impact of minimum wage and living wage policies on urban economic development.

    Dr. Lester
    employs quantitative and qualitative methods drawn from the fields of labor economics, political science and regional development. While his research on the minimum wage and living wage has garnered national attention recently--including a mention in the State of the Union address--he continues to broaden his research agenda within the field of economic development.

    He recently completed a collaboration with with Nikhil Kaza, Daniel Rodriguez, Yan Song and Phil Berke on a project funded by the What Works Collaborative that examines the links between economic development and land use and builds a strategy for preserving industrial land in urban areas.

    Dr. Lester is also continuing a variety of research projects aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of economic development incentive programs.  Specifically, he completed a paper published in Urban Studies focused on the effectiveness and economic impact of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) in Chicago.  Some recent articles in Chicago Magazine feature his work and highlight several policy reforms.   He also published an evaluation of the use of economic development incentives in North Carolina, which will appear in Economic Development Quarterly.

    Dr. Lester is also engaged in numerous projects that study the potential for environmental solutions to generate meaningful employment opportunities in the so-called "green economy."  This work takes the form of academic publications, original policy proposals, and project-based consulting using IMPLAN.



    In the Fall of 2013, Dr. Lester led an Economic Development Workshop (PLAN 823) which focused on the economic impact of innovative hog-waste to energy projects in Eastern North Carolina.

    hog farm 1

    (Dr. Lester and ED students with Tom Butler of Butler Farms in Lillington, NC)

    methane capture system











    Dr. Lester also teaches one core planning course (PLAN 714) as well as the quantitative methods course in the economic development specialization (PLAN 771-Development Planning Techniques).  He also teaches a First Year Seminar (PLAN 89- Urban Growth, Structure, and the Response to Economic Crises).

    PLAN 720 - Planning Methods


    Recent Publications

    Lester, T. William and Hartley, Daniel 2013. The Long Term Employment Impacts of Gentrification in the 1990s" (under revision) Regional Science and Urban Economics.

    Lester, T. William. 2013 “Chicago’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Program: Does it pass the ‘But-For’ Test? Evidence Using Time Series DataUrban Studies.

    Lester, T. William. 2013.  “The Role of History in Redistributional Policy Discourse: Evidence from Living Wage Campaigns in Chicago and San Francisco”  Journal of Urban Affairs.

    Lester, T. William, Lowe, Nichola, and Freyer, Alan. (forthcoming) “Mediating Incentive Use: A Time-Series Assessment of Economic Development Deals in North Carolina” Economic Development Quarterly.

    Lester, T. William and Reckhow, Sarah. May 2013. “Network Governance and Regional Equity: Shared Agendas or Problematic Partners?Planning Theory. Online First: August 24th, 2012. 

    Lester, T. William. 2012. “Labor Standards and Local Economic Development—Do Living Wage Provisions Harm Economic Growth? Journal of Planning Education and Research. Fall 32(3): 331-348.

    Lester, T. William. 2011. "The Impact of Living Wage Laws on Urban Economic Development Patterns and the Local Business Climate: Evidence From California Cities" Economic Development Quarterly August 2011 25: 237-254

    Chapple, Karen, Kroll, Cyntia, Lester, T. William and Montero, Sergio. “Innovation in the Green Economy: An Extension of the Regional Innovation System Model”  Economic Development Quarterly. February 2011 25(1): 5-25.

    Dube, Arindrajit, Lester, T. William and Reich, Michael. 2010. “Minimum Wage Effects Across State Borders: Evidence from Contiguous CountiesReview of Economics and Statistics, November 92(4): 945-64.

    Chapple, Karen and Lester, T. William. 2010. “The resilient regional labour market: The US case” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society. 3(1): 85-104.

    Pastor, Manuel, Lester, T. William, and Scoggins, Justin. 2009. “Why Regions? Why Now and Who Cares” Journal of Urban Affairs. 31(3): 269-296.


    Working Papers

    Lester, T. William and Kaza, Nikhil “Making Room for Manufacturing: Understanding Threats to Industrial Land Conversion in Cities” Journal of the American Planning Association. (submitted September 1st, 2013).

    Lester, T. William and Nuygen, Mai “The Economic Integration of Immigrants and Regional Resilience” Journal of Urban Affairs (revision requested).

    Do Frictions Matter in the Labor Market? Accessions, Separations and Minimum Wage Effects” With Arindrajit Dube and Michael Reich. UC Berkeley, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE), Working Paper No. 222-10


    Reports/Op-Eds/Blog Posts/Media Coverage

    Testimony at NYC City Council on the economic impact of living wage laws. Dr. Lester provides public testimony before the City of New York Contracts Committee hearing on the Revised Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act (Proposed Int. No. 251-A), Nov. 21st, 2012.

    Creating Good Jobs in Our Communities” (Center For American Progress Report with Ken Jacobs) November 30, 2010.

    An Increased Minimum Wage Is Good Policy Even During Hard Times

    Interview with Radio New Zealand on Minimum Wage Increases

    Minimum wage research featured in the Spoksman Review

    Labor Standards and Local Economic Development—
    Do Living Wage Provisions Harm Economic Growth?

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