Sequential city growth: Empirical evidence
Using two comprehensive datasets on populations of cities and metropolitan areas for a large set of countries, I present three new empirical facts about the evolution of city growth. First, the distribution of cities' growth rates is skewed to the right in most countries and decades. Second, within a country, the average rank of each decade's fastest-growing cities tends to rise over time. Finally, this rank increases faster in periods of rapid growth in urban population. These facts can be interpreted as evidence in favor of the hypothesis that historically, urban agglomerations have followed a sequential growth pattern: Within a country, the initially largest city is the first to grow rapidly for some years. At some point, the growth rate of this city slows down and the second-largest city then becomes the fastest-growing one. Eventually, the third-largest city starts growing fast as the two largest cities slow down, and so on.
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