FacebookTwitter Mail

Global Cities Initiative

Students explore different issues raised in the first annual Copenhagen Area Survey

Students of institute co-director, Dr. Michael Emerson, have created reports exploring different issues raised in the first annual Copenhagen Area Survey, with an eye towards comparisons to the results of the Kinder Institute Houston Area Survey, on issues of sustainability, crime, transportation, and more.

  • Copenhagen's Green Image: Where the City and Citizens Stand & Differ on Climate Change
  • How Do Copenhageners Cope with Climate Change?
  • Fear of Crime: Victimization in Copenhagen and Houston
  • Length of Residence and Higher-Order Goods in Greater Copenhagen
  • Attitudes towards Redistribution of Wealth in a Welfare System
  • A Mix for Sustainability: Analyzing the relationship between mixed-use development and sustainable transportation in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Religion in Copenhagen
  • Public Transportation and Satisfaction in Copenhagen

Click here to read the full collection.  


How does a city become the world's most livable?

This video gives a glimpse to the answer.

Copenhagen has transformed itself into the new era. It has done so by reading the times, establishing key principles to adapt to the new times, and finally careful planning and patient execution—usually through collecting and analyzing data—to meet those principles. Notably, its success has been widespread—it now attracts bright, energetic young people, families looking for a quality place to raise their children, and seniors who can find many services and a supportive social environment.

The evolution of transportation technology

Transportation technology is changing. Less and less young people around the world - the US included - are getting drivers licenses, owning cars, or driving them. Biking as a means of transportation is increasing rapidly, led by Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where about half of all its citizens commute by bike. For that reason, the City of Copenhagen has partnered with MIT to invent a bike wheel that makes biking on all sorts of terrains easier. This video shows the amazing invention.


Denmark ranked as happiest nation; presentation explores Copenhagen as a case study


Director spends year in Copenhagen

To better understand Houston and other urban American cities, Dr. Michael Emerson, co-director of the Rice University Kinder Institute for Urban Research, moved to Denmark’s capital city for one year as part of the institute’s Emerging Global Cities Initiative. Since August, Emerson is teaching, conducting research and exploring how European cities like Copenhagen compare to their U.S. counterparts.

“To understand Houston in particular and cities in general requires a comparative perspective.

Given the growing interconnection of cities around the world and given Houston’s rising role among cities this kind of research is imperative,” Emerson said. “The initiative seeks to situate Houston in careful comparative study with other major cities around the globe. This kind of work will help us suggest policies to better Houston and to better cities everywhere.”

Part of Emerson’s work involves his collaboration with the Danish Institute for Study Abroad – teaching European Urban Life and Development, a course integrating architectural, geographical, historical, and social dimensions to explore the European city as a venue of human interaction and experience; Getting There: Transportation in Urban Europe, focusing on transportation systems used in European cities, their advantages and disadvantages, and whether major transformations in European urban transportation are on the horizon; and Taking the Pulse of the City: The Copenhagen Area Survey, the Kinder Institute’s first attempt at a comparative study to the Kinder Houston Area Survey. “I am spending the fall meeting with Danish representatives, to learn what they think we ought to ask in the survey, and interviewing firms to select the one that will conduct the actual interviews for us,” Emerson said.



Every Wednesday is spent in field study, exploring Copenhagen or other communities to learn more from their living practices. “For our first field study in the transportation course, we went on a four-hour bike tour, stopping at various places along the way to learn how Copenhagen transformed itself from a car city,” Emerson said. Formerly a city devoted to the automobile, Copenhagen is now predominately a walking and biking community – 40 percent of residents get to work on bikes, 10 percent walk, and another 35 percent take mass transit. “It was amazing to learn how this was done, and I am spending time researching how any of this might apply in the Houston context,” he said.

Twice in the fall and spring, Emerson will accompany students to other European cities, including upcoming trips to Budapest and Vienna. “A few weeks ago we traveled to Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city and a port city very much like Houston,” he said. “It is the economic engine for the country and its population is growing. Amazingly, they are expanding their downtown area by 40 percent, making it Europe’s largest development project.” Emerson and his students toured the project, called Haffencity, and learned a about building healthy cities for today.

Emerson is collaborating with urban researchers in Copenhagen, but also is working with the Mistra Urban Futures Center at Chalmers University in Sweden. “The center is currently partnering with five cities around the world to implement solutions for more sustainable cities—a direct correlation to the work we’re doing at the Kinder Institute,” he said.

Emerson also will welcome a Rice University sociology graduate student in the spring where together they will work on research devoted to the future of city populations, and research comparing Houston and Copenhagen. In total, his year-long effort means valuable work in moving the institute’s mission forward. “This is a great opportunity to take a great leap in putting our work in an international scope,” Emerson said. “Seeing urban issues through this global lens helps us generate research that is valuable for sustainable living around the world.”