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City size distribution in China: are large cities dominant?

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  • Zelai Xu
  • Nong Zhu
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    Abstract

    This paper examines the evolution in size distribution of Chinese cities. Since the relaxation of restrictions on rural/urban migration in the 1980s, China has experienced rapid urban growth. However, cities of different sizes have experienced varying patterns of growth. We first describe the evolution of city size distribution in China by documenting the growth both of city size and of the number of existing cities. Then, focusing on the period from 1990-2000, we characterize the urban evolution trend with the Pareto law estimation, and examine the mobility of cities between different size groups with the Markov transition matrix. We also test the convergence hypothesis in the city population growth process. Our results suggest that, contrary to the expected dominance of large cities’ growth, Chinese city size distribution evened out over the 1990s, with small cities growing more rapidly than large cities.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by CIRANO in its series CIRANO Working Papers with number 2014s-04.

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    Date of creation: 01 Jan 2014
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    Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2014s-04

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    Keywords: City size distribution; Zipf’s law; Convergence; China.;

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    1. Eaton, Jonathan & Eckstein, Zvi, 1997. "Cities and growth: Theory and evidence from France and Japan," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(4-5), pages 443-474, August.
    2. Nitsch, Volker, 2005. "Zipf zipped," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 86-100, January.
    3. Glaeser, Edward L. & Scheinkman, JoseA. & Shleifer, Andrei, 1995. "Economic growth in a cross-section of cities," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 117-143, August.
    4. 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.
    5. Gabaix, Xavier & Ioannides, Yannis M., 2004. "The evolution of city size distributions," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 53, pages 2341-2378 Elsevier.
    6. Chang, Kyung-Sup, 1994. "Chinese urbanization and development before and after economic reform: A comparative reappraisal," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 601-613, April.
    7. Duncan Black & Vernon Henderson, 2003. "Urban evolution in the USA," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(4), pages 343-372, October.
    8. Henderson, J V, 1974. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(4), pages 640-56, September.
    9. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
    10. Rosenthal, Stuart S. & Strange, William C., 2004. "Evidence on the nature and sources of agglomeration economies," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 49, pages 2119-2171 Elsevier.
    11. repec:fth:stanho:e-95-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Anderson, Gordon & Ge, Ying, 2005. "The size distribution of Chinese cities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(6), pages 756-776, November.
    13. Chun-Chung Au & Vernon Henderson, 2002. "How Migration Restrictions Limit Agglomeration and Productivity in China," NBER Working Papers 8707, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. 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.
    15. Gilles Duranton, 1997. "La nouvelle économie géographique : agglomération et dispersion," Économie et Prévision, Programme National Persée, vol. 131(5), pages 1-24.
    16. Vernon Henderson & Duncan Black, 1999. "Spatial Evolution of Population and Industry in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 321-327, May.
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