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A Century of Shocks: The Evolution of the German City Size Distribution 1925 – 1999

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

Abstract

The empirical literature on city size distributions has mainly focused on the USA. The first major contribution of this paper is to provide empirical evidence on the evolution and structure of the West-German city size distribution. Using a unique annual data set that covers most of the 20th century for 62 of West-Germany's largest cities, we look at the evolution of both the city size distribution as a whole and each city separately. The West-German case is of particular interest as it has undergone major shocks, most notably WWII. Our data set allows us to identify these shocks and provide evidence on the effects of these `quasi-natural experiments' on the city size distribution. The second major contribution of this paper is that we perform unit-root tests on individual German city sizes using a substantial number of observations to analyze the evolution of the individual cities that make up the German city size distribution. Our main findings are twofold. First, WWII has had a major and lasting impact on the city size distribution. Second, the overall city size distribution does not adhere to Zipf's Law. This second finding is largely based on the results of unit root tests for individual cities to test for Gibrat's Law, the latter being a requirement for Zipf's Law to hold for the overall city-size distribution. Together these two findings are consistent with theories emphasizing increasing returns to scale in city growth.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1728.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1728

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. 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.
  2. Stephen Redding, 2009. "Economic Geography: A Review of the Theoretical and Empirical Literature," CEP Discussion Papers dp0904, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. González-Val, Rafael & Lanaspa, Luis & Sanz, Fernando, 2008. "New Evidence on Gibrat’s Law for Cities," MPRA Paper 10411, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Sánchez-Vidal, María & González-Val, Rafael & Viladecans-Marsal, Elisabet, 2014. "Sequential city growth in the US: Does age matter?," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 29-37.
  7. Redding, Stephen J., 2009. "The Empirics of New Economic Geography," CEPR Discussion Papers 7307, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Rafael González-Val & Luis Lanaspa & Fernando Sanz, 2011. "Gibrat’s Law for Cities Revisited," ERSA conference papers ersa10p199, European Regional Science Association.
  9. Maria Florencia Granato, 2011. "REGIONAL NEW ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY (refereed paper)," ERSA conference papers ersa10p747, European Regional Science Association.
  10. repec:asg:wpaper:1011 is not listed on IDEAS
  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. 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.
  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. 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.
  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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