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Gibrat's law and the British Industrial Revolution

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  • Alexander Klein

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  • Tim Leunig

    ()

Abstract

This paper examines Gibrat’s law in England and Wales between 1801 and 1911 using a unique data set covering the entire settlement size distribution. We find that Gibrat’s law broadly holds even in the face of population doubling every fifty years, an industrial and transport trevolution, and the absence of zoning laws to constrain growth. The result is strongest for the later period, and in counties most affected by the industrial revolution. The exception were villages in areas bypassed by the industrial revolution. We argue that agglomeration externalities balanced urban disamenities such as commuting costs and poor living conditions to ensure steady growth of many places, rather than exceptional growth of few.

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File URL: ftp://ftp.ukc.ac.uk/pub/ejr/RePEc/ukc/ukcedp/1314.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Kent in its series Studies in Economics with number 1314.

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Date of creation: Aug 2013
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Handle: RePEc:ukc:ukcedp:1314

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Postal: Department of Economics, University of Kent at Canterbury, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NP
Phone: +44 (0)1227 764000
Fax: +44 (0)1227 827850
Web page: http://www.ukc.ac.uk/economics/

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Keywords: Gibrat’s law; city-size distribution; industrial revolution;

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  1. Esteban Rossi-Hansberg & Mark L. J. Wright, 2003. "Urban structure and growth," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 141, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Michaels, Guy & Rauch, Ferdinand & Redding, Stephen J, 2008. "Urbanization and Structural Transformation," CEPR Discussion Papers 7016, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. 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.
  4. John Sutton, 1997. "Gibrat's Legacy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(1), pages 40-59, March.
  5. Ioannides, Yannis M. & Overman, Henry G., 2003. "Zipf's law for cities: an empirical examination," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 127-137, March.
  6. Duncan Black & Vernon Henderson, 2003. "Urban evolution in the USA," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(4), pages 343-372, October.
  7. Duncan Black & Vernon Henderson, 1999. "A Theory of Urban Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 252-284, April.
  8. 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.
  9. Tim Leunig, 2005. "Time is money: a re-assessment of the passenger social savings from Victorian British railways," Economic History Working Papers 22551, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  10. Henderson, J V, 1974. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(4), pages 640-56, September.
  11. Jan Eeckhout, 2004. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1429-1451, December.
  12. 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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