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Urban spatial structure and economic growth in Spanish metropolitan areas


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  • Emili Tortosa-Ausina
  • Luisa Alamá
  • Ana M Fuertes-Eugenio
  • Marta Roig-Casanova


There is a large literature on the existence of agglomeration economies, as shown in the surveys by Moomaw (1983) or Gerking (1993). The benefits of these economies arise from multiple sources, but some negative externalities might also emerge. Within the hierarchical urban system, cities at different ranks (different size) take on different economic functions with variant 'efficient sizes' (Capello and Camagni, 2000) and, indeed, the distributions of cities' relative size have been stable in many countries (Black and Henderson, 1999; Eaton and Eckstein, 1997; Nitsch, 2005) and, in many cases they obey the Zipf's law (Gabaix, 1999). If a city is able to adjust its spatial structure to offset the negative exter- nalities due to its size, it will be able to keep growing. If that is not possible, it might be more convenient to transit from a monocentric to a polycentric structure, which is usually considered as a possible strategy to eliminate diseconomies in urban economics (Sasaki and Mun, 1996; Fujita et al., 1997). However, there is little empirical evidence on the links between urban spatial structure and growth---which are usually understood within the context of urban evolution. One notable exception is the study by Cervero (2001), where it is argued that more compact, centralized and accessible cities are usually associated with higher productivity levels. In this context, this paper explores the links between urban spatial structure and economic growth in metropolitan areas in Spain, where this type of analysis is virtually non-existent. However, it is a relevant policy issue due to a variety of reasons such as the increased urban sprawl and the different costs it brings about. The analysis will also enable to evaluate if there is any particular type of urban spatial structure which prevails on the grounds of its superior efficiency, together with evaluating if an efficient urban spatial structure hinges on the size and other attributes specific to each particular metropolitan area.

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Paper provided by European Regional Science Association in its series ERSA conference papers with number ersa11p1703.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
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Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa11p1703

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  1. Gerking, S.D., 1993. "Measuring productivity growth in U.S. regions: A survey," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-4742869, Tilburg University.
  2. Small, Kenneth A. & Song, Shunfeng, 1994. "Population and Employment Densities: Structure and Change," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt6nk5v6b4, University of California Transportation Center.
  3. Gilles Duranton & Diego Puga, 2001. "Nursery Cities: Urban Diversity, Process Innovation, and the Life Cycle of Products," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1454-1477, December.
  4. Wheaton, William C., 2004. "Commuting, congestion, and employment dispersal in cities with mixed land use," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 417-438, May.
  5. Miquel-Àngel Garcia-López & Ivan Muñiz, 2010. "Employment Decentralisation: Polycentricity or Scatteration? The Case of Barcelona," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 47(14), pages 3035-3056, December.
  6. Fujita, Masahisa & Thisse, Jacques-Francois & Zenou, Yves, 1997. "On the Endogeneous Formation of Secondary Employment Centers in a City," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 337-357, May.
  7. Anas, Alex & Arnott, Richard & Small, Kenneth A., 1997. "Urban Spatial Structure," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt835049q3, University of California Transportation Center.
  8. Paul M Romer, 1999. "Increasing Returns and Long-Run Growth," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2232, David K. Levine.
  9. Paolo Veneri, 2010. "Urban Polycentricity and the Costs of Commuting: Evidence from Italian Metropolitan Areas," Growth and Change, Gatton College of Business and Economics, University of Kentucky, vol. 41(3), pages 403-429.
  10. Nitsch, Volker, 2005. "Zipf zipped," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 86-100, January.
  11. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
  12. Sasaki, Komei & Mun, Se-il, 1996. "A Dynamic Analysis of Multiple-Center Formation in a City," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 257-278, November.
  13. 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.
  14. Julie Gallo & Coro Chasco, 2008. "Spatial analysis of urban growth in Spain, 1900–2001," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 59-80, February.
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