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Zipfs Law for Cities: An Empirical Examination

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  • Y Ioannides
  • Henry Overman

Abstract

We use data for metro areas in the United States, from the US Census for 1900 û 1990, to test the validity of Zipf's Law for cities. Previous investigations are restricted to regressions of log size against log rank. In contrast, we use a nonparametric procedure to calculate local Zipf exponents from the mean and variance of city growth rates. This also allows us to test for the validity of Gibrat's Law for city growth processes. Despite variation in growth rates as a function of city size, Gibrat's Law does hold. In addition the local Zipf exponents are broadly consistent with Zipf's Law. Deviations from Zipf's Law are easily explained by deviations from Gibrat's Law.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0484.

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Date of creation: Nov 2000
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0484

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Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

Related research

Keywords: Urban growth; Zipfs Law; Gibrats Law; estimation of Brownian motion;

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  1. Henry G. Overman & Yannis Ioannides, 2000. "Cross sectional evolution of the US city size distribution," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20137, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Harris Dobkins, Linda & Ioannides, Yannis M., 2001. "Spatial interactions among U.S. cities: 1900-1990," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 701-731, November.
  3. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
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