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A century of shocks: The evolution of the German city size distribution 1925-1999

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  • Bosker, Maarten
  • Brakman, Steven
  • Garretsen, Harry
  • Schramm, Marc

Abstract

This paper uses empirical evidence on the evolution and structure of the West-German city size distribution to assess the relevance of three different theories of urban growth. The West-German case is of particular interest as Germany's urban system has been subject to some of history's largest (exogenous) shocks during the 20th century. A unique annual data set for 62 West-German cities that covers the period 1925-1999 allows for the identification of these shocks and provides evidence on the effects of these 'quasi-natural experiments' on the city size distribution as a whole as well as on each city separately. Our main findings are twofold. First, WWII has had a major and lasting impact on the city size distribution. Second, and heavily based upon the results of (panel) unit root tests that analyze the evolution of the individual cities that make up the West-German city size distribution, city growth is found to be trend stationary, which is not in line with Gibrat's Law of proportional effect. Overall, our findings are most consistent with theories emphasizing the role of increasing returns to scale for city growth.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Regional Science and Urban Economics.

Volume (Year): 38 (2008)
Issue (Month): 4 (July)
Pages: 330-347

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Handle: RePEc:eee:regeco:v:38:y:2008:i:4:p:330-347

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Stephen Redding, 2009. "The Empirics of New Economic Geography," CEP Discussion Papers dp0925, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  2. María Sánchez-Vidal & Rafael González-Val & Elisabet Viladecans-Marsal, 2013. "Sequential city growth in the US: does age matter?," Working Papers 2013/1, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  3. Rafael González-Val & Luis Lanaspa & Fernando Sanz, 2011. "Gibrat’s Law for Cities Revisited," ERSA conference papers ersa10p199, European Regional Science Association.
  4. Maria Florencia Granato, 2011. "REGIONAL NEW ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY (refereed paper)," ERSA conference papers ersa10p747, European Regional Science Association.
  5. Rafael González-Val & Arturo Ramos-Gutiérrez & Fernando Sanz-Gracia, 2011. "Size Distributions for All Cities: Lognormal and q-exponential functions," ERSA conference papers ersa11p554, European Regional Science Association.
  6. repec:asg:wpaper:1011 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Redding, Stephen J., 2009. "Economic Geography: a Review of the Theoretical and Empirical Literature," CEPR Discussion Papers 7126, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. González-Val, Rafael & Marcén, Miriam, 2012. "Unilateral divorce versus child custody and child support in the U.S," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 613-643.
  9. González-Val, Rafael & Ramos, Arturo & Sanz, Fernando & Vera-Cabello, María, 2013. "Size Distributions for All Cities: Which One is Best?," MPRA Paper 44314, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Denise PUMAIN, 2012. "Une Théorie Géographique Pour La Loi De Zipf," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 36, pages 31-54.
  11. Daniel ARRIBAS-BEL & Fernando SANZ GRACIA & Domingo P. XIMENEZ-DE-EMBUN, 2012. "Kangaroos, Cities And Space: A First Approach To The Australian Urban System," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 36, pages 165-187.
  12. Rafael González-Val & Luis Lanaspa & Fernando Sanz, 2012. "New evidence on Gibrat’s law for cities," Working Papers 2012/18, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  13. González-Val, Rafael & Marcén, Miriam, 2012. "Breaks in the breaks: An analysis of divorce rates in Europe," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 242-255.
  14. Kii, Masanobu & Akimoto, Keigo & Doi, Kenji, 2012. "Random-growth urban model with geographical fitness," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 391(23), pages 5960-5970.
  15. Sarabia, José María & Prieto, Faustino, 2009. "The Pareto-positive stable distribution: A new descriptive model for city size data," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 388(19), pages 4179-4191.
  16. Ibragimov, Marat & Ibragimov, Rustam & Kattuman, Paul, 2013. "Emerging markets and heavy tails," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 2546-2559.

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