Lester, Thomas

T. William Lester


Urban and Regional Planning


Preferred: thomas.lester@sjsu.edu

Alternate: thomas.w.lester@gmail.com

Office Hours

By Appointment


Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley (2009)
M.U.P.P University of Illinois, Chicago (2001)
B.A. Economics and Urban Studies, University of Pennsylvania (1999)

Licenses and Certificates

Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, Track co-chair, Planning Theory
Urban Affairs Association (UAA), member


Dr. Lester is a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning. His research interests are broad within the field of urban and regional economic development, but generally focus on the role of social institutions and policy interventions in reducing income inequality and promoting balanced economic growth. He is also an expert in policy evaluation and economic impact analysis.  Before joining SJSU, Dr. Lester spent 10 years at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Dr. Lester has studied the impact of minimum wage and living wage policies on urban economic development for over a decade. He is a co-author of two papers that analyze the impact of minimum wage changes on employment and labor turnover. This research has been cited by the Council of Economic Advisors, the Congressional Budget Office, and the New York Times, among others. In a qualitative case comparison between San Francisco and the Research Triangle, Dr. Lester analyzed how higher labor standards reshape employment practices in the restaurant industry.

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.

Recently, Dr. Lester launched a collaborative project aimed at assessing the economic health and competitiveness of so called “inner-city” neighborhoods. Through a series of papers and planning tools, he is documenting recent employment changes at the census tract-level, and undertaking a nationwide re-analysis of the “spatial mismatch” hypothesis. Dr. Lester is currently conducting research for a book on the long-term impacts of Urban Renewal policies on neighborhood economic development and racial inequality on Chicago’s South Side.

He received a PhD in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley (2009), a Masters of Urban Planning and Policy (MUPP) from the University of Illinois at Chicago (2001), and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania (1999).

Recent News and Articles

New Report on the Impact of Long Beach's Proposed Living Wage for Tourism Workers, June 2023.

New Report on the Impact of Los Angeles' Proposed Living Wage Ordinance for Tourism Workers, May 2023.


Response to the Pandemic: T. William Lester shares service industry strategies

Replacing Truth with Social Hope

Striking a Balance: A National Assessment of Economic Development Incentives

Subsidizing Big Firms Doesn’t Really Create Jobs



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