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The Area and Population of Cities: New Insights from a Different Perspective on Cities

  • Hernán D. Rozenfeld
  • Diego Rybski
  • Xavier Gabaix
  • Hernán A. Makse

The distribution of city populations has attracted much attention, in part because it constrains models of local growth. However, there is no consensus on the distribution below the very upper tail, because available data need to rely on "legal" rather than "economic" definitions for medium and small cities. To remedy this difficulty, we construct cities "from the bottom up" by clustering populated areas obtained from high-resolution data. We find that Zipf's law for population holds for cities as small as 5,000 inhabitants in Great Britain and 12,000 inhabitants in the US. We also find a Zipf's law for areas. JEL: R11, R12, R23

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 101 (2011)
Issue (Month): 5 (August)
Pages: 2205-25

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:5:p:2205-25
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