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The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Regional Economics Applications Laboratory


 Our Mission

REAL is a research center focusing on the development of theories and quantitative tools to model urban, regional and interregional economic systems. REAL provides timely, high quality analytical economic information for a variety of uses such as public policy decision making by public sector agencies and for strategic marketing in the private sector. REAL's capabilities revolve around comprehensive state and metropolitan models that integrate econometric and input-output analysis to provide for both impact and forecasting analyses.

REAL draws its staff from cooperating institutions and advanced graduate students in the fields of economics, geography, urban and regional planning, computer science and mathematics. Many of the projects the students work on then become the basis for thesis and dissertations and articles published in peer-reviewed journals.


In January of 1989, the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) was created as a cooperative venture between the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the University of Illinois focusing on the devlopment and use of analytical models for urban and regional economic development. Philip Israilevich (FED Chicago) and Geoffrey J.D. Hewings (UIUC) were the founders of this non-for-profit Laboratory housed whithin the Institute for Government and Public Affairs in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. An announcement of the new lab can be found here. The joint venture lasted until 2001.

REAL was formed with the intent of providing high quality analytical modeling capability at modest cost to individuals, public and private corporations, and federal, state, and local government agencies interested in understanding past economic trends and desiring a window on the future. The Laboratory is staffed by professionals drawn from personnel of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and several graduate research assistants from several departments including Agricultural and Consumer Economics, Economics, and Urban and Regional Planning.

While REAL's primary focus has been on the economies of the Midwest, REAL has collaborated in the development of models for several regions on the east coast, for states in Brazil and for the Jakarta Metropolitan region.

In 2016, after 27 years as REAL's Director, Geoffrey J.D. Hewings passed on the leadership of the laboratory to Sandy Dall'erba, Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. Sandy's first visit at REAL was a Visiting-Scholar stay in 2001-2003. Having defended his PhD in Economics at the University of Pau, France, in 2004, he came back to REAL in 2004-2005 by a Post-doctoral stay.

Since his arrival, the focus of the lab has extended to questions of regional innovation dynamics and, more especially, the measurements of the economic impact of climate change. Several funding agencies support this work (NSF, NASA, USDA) and it is studied under the lens of various techniques such as spatial statistics, spatial econometrics and interregional input-output.

To learn more, go to our Wikipedia page.

 REAL's ever Expanding Network

After more than 25 years, REAL has created a vast network of alumni and visiting scholars around the world. This allows greater collaboration and exchange of ideas. A small sample of past "mafia" members can be found in the interactive map below (thanks Esteban Lopez for puting it together!).