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On the city size distribution: A finite mixture interpretation

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  • Su, Hsuan-Li

Abstract

Previous studies have shown that city size is lognormally distributed but have not reached a consensus on the shape of the upper tail. Using three datasets of U.S. cities and empirical distribution function statistics, I show that (1) the entire city size distribution is not lognormally distributed; (2) Zipf’s law does not hold generally; and (3) the power-law tail is robust. I then provide an alternative explanation for the observed fat tail: A mixture of lognormal distributions can generate a power law tail. In fact, this fat tail has its statistical origin in Shaked’s theorem. Finally, I provide an urban growth theory to explain how heterogeneous growth factors form a mixture that shapes the aggregate city size distribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Su, Hsuan-Li, 2020. "On the city size distribution: A finite mixture interpretation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:116:y:2020:i:c:s0094119019300932
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2019.103216
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    Cited by:

    1. Miguel Puente-Ajovín & Arturo Ramos & Fernando Sanz-Gracia, 2020. "Is there a universal parametric city size distribution? Empirical evidence for 70 countries," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 65(3), pages 727-741, December.
    2. Campolieti, Michele & Ramos, Arturo, 2021. "The distribution of strike size: Empirical evidence from Europe and North America in the 19th and 20th centuries," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 563(C).
    3. Miguel Puente-Ajovín & Arturo Ramos & Fernando Sanz-Gracia, 0. "Is there a universal parametric city size distribution? Empirical evidence for 70 countries," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 0, pages 1-15.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Gibrat’s Law; Power law; Finite mixture;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D30 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - General
    • 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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