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The Dynamics of City Formation

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  • J. Vernon Henderson
  • Anthony Venables

Abstract

This paper examines city formation in a country whose urban population is growing steadily over time, with new cities required to accommodate this growth. In contrast to most of the literature there is immobility of housing and urban infrastructure, and investment in these assets is taken on the basis of forward-looking behavior. In the presence of these fixed assets cities form sequentially, without the population swings in existing cities that arise in current models, but with swings in house rents. Equilibrium city size, absent government, may be larger or smaller than is efficient, depending on how urban externalities vary with population. Efficient formation of cities with internalization of externalities involves local government intervention and borrowing to finance development. The paper explores the institutions required for successful local government intervention.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13769.

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Date of creation: Feb 2008
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Publication status: published as Vernon Henderson & Anthony Venables, 2009. "Dynamics of city formation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(2), pages 233-254, April.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13769

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  1. James E. Rauch, 1993. "Does History Matter Only When it Matters Little? The Case of City-Indu try Location," NBER Working Papers 4312, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Abdel-Rahman, Hesham M. & Anas, Alex, 2004. "Theories of systems of cities," 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 52, pages 2293-2339 Elsevier.
  3. Xavier Gabaix & Yannis M. Ioannides, 2003. "The Evolution of City Size Distributions," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0310, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  4. Henderson, J V, 1974. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(4), pages 640-56, September.
  5. Giles Duranton & Diego Puga, 2003. "Micro-Foundations of Urban Agglomeration Economies," NBER Working Papers 9931, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Anthony J. Venables, 2003. "Spatial Disparities in Developing Countries: Cities, Regions and International Trade," CEP Discussion Papers dp0593, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  7. Jan Eeckhout, 2004. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1429-1451, December.
  8. 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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Cited by:
  1. Vernon Henderson & Anthony Venables, 2009. "Dynamics of city formation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(2), pages 233-254, April.
  2. Stephen Redding, 2009. "Economic geography: a review of the theoretical and empirical literature," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 25500, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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