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On the distribution of city sizes

  • Córdoba, Juan-Carlos

The city size distribution in many countries is remarkably well described by a Pareto distribution. We derive conditions that standard urban models must satisfy in order to explain this regularity. We show that under general conditions urban models must have (i) a balanced growth path and (ii) a Pareto distribution for the underlying source of randomness. In particular, one of the following combinations can induce a Pareto distribution of city sizes: (i) preferences for different goods follow reflected random walks, and the elasticity of substitution between goods is 1; or (ii) total factor productivities of different goods follow reflected random walks, and increasing returns are equal across goods.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Urban Economics.

Volume (Year): 63 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 177-197

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Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:63:y:2008:i:1:p:177-197
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622905

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  1. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
  2. J.V. Henderson, 1972. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," Working Papers 75, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  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.
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  8. Ioannides, Yannis M., 1994. "Product differentiation and economic growth in a system of cities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 461-484, August.
  9. Rosen, Kenneth T. & Resnick, Mitchel, 1980. "The size distribution of cities: An examination of the Pareto law and primacy," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 165-186, September.
  10. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-37, October.
  11. Masahisa Fujita & Paul Krugman & Anthony J. Venables, 2001. "The Spatial Economy: Cities, Regions, and International Trade," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262561476, June.
  12. King, Robert G. & Plosser, Charles I. & Rebelo, Sergio T., 1988. "Production, growth and business cycles : I. The basic neoclassical model," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2-3), pages 195-232.
  13. Duncan Black & Vernon Henderson, 1997. "Urban Growth," NBER Working Papers 6008, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  15. Segal, David, 1976. "Are There Returns to Scale in City Size?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 58(3), pages 339-50, August.
  16. Soo, Kwok Tong, 2005. "Zipf's Law for cities: a cross-country investigation," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 239-263, May.
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