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

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

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

  • Hernán D. Rozenfeld & Diego Rybski & Xavier Gabaix & Hernán A. Makse, 2011. "The Area and Population of Cities: New Insights from a Different Perspective on Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 2205-2225, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:5:p:2205-25
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D30 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - General
    • D51 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Exchange and Production Economies
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)

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