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On the distribution of city sizes

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  • Córdoba, Juan-Carlos

Abstract

The city size distribution in many countries is remarkably well described by a Pareto distribution. We derive conditions that standard urban models must satisfy in order to explain this regularity. We show that under general conditions urban models must have (i) a balanced growth path and (ii) a Pareto distribution for the underlying source of randomness. In particular, one of the following combinations can induce a Pareto distribution of city sizes: (i) preferences for different goods follow reflected random walks, and the elasticity of substitution between goods is 1; or (ii) total factor productivities of different goods follow reflected random walks, and increasing returns are equal across goods.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Urban Economics.

Volume (Year): 63 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 177-197

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Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:63:y:2008:i:1:p:177-197

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622905

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Keywords: City size distribution Zipf' s Law Rank-Size Rule Pareto distribution Urban growth Multisectorial models Balanced growth Cities;

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  1. J.V. Henderson, 1972. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," Working Papers 75, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  2. Yannis Menelaos Ioannides & Henry G. Overman, 2003. "Zipf’s law for cities : an empirical examination," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 583, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Jonathan Eaton & Zvi Eckstein, 1994. "Cities and Growth: Theory and Evidence from france and Japan," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 36, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  4. Rosen, Kenneth T. & Resnick, Mitchel, 1980. "The size distribution of cities: An examination of the Pareto law and primacy," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 165-186, September.
  5. Ioannides, Yannis M., 1994. "Product differentiation and economic growth in a system of cities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 461-484, August.
  6. Kwok Tong Soo, 2004. "Zipf's law for cities: a cross country investigation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19947, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  7. Duncan Black & Vernon Henderson, 1997. "Urban Growth," NBER Working Papers 6008, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Segal, David, 1976. "Are There Returns to Scale in City Size?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 58(3), pages 339-50, August.
  9. Stanley, Michael H. R. & Buldyrev, Sergey V. & Havlin, Shlomo & Mantegna, Rosario N. & Salinger, Michael A. & Eugene Stanley, H., 1995. "Zipf plots and the size distribution of firms," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 453-457, October.
  10. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-37, October.
  11. Duncan Black & Vernon Henderson, 1999. "A Theory of Urban Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 252-284, April.
  12. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
  13. Fujita, Masahisa & Mori, Tomoya, 1997. "Structural stability and evolution of urban systems," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(4-5), pages 399-442, August.
  14. Masahisa Fujita & Paul Krugman & Anthony J. Venables, 2001. "The Spatial Economy: Cities, Regions, and International Trade," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262561476, December.
  15. King, Robert G. & Plosser, Charles I. & Rebelo, Sergio T., 1988. "Production, growth and business cycles : I. The basic neoclassical model," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2-3), pages 195-232.
  16. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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