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Uneven landscapes and city size distributions

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  • Lee, Sanghoon
  • Li, Qiang

Abstract

This paper proposes a new model generating city size distributions that asymptotically follow the log-normal distribution. The log-normal distribution is consistent with Zipf’s law in the top tail, which is known to hold for many countries in different periods. The key feature of our model is that it can express city size as a product of multiple random factors (e.g., climate, geographic features, and industry composition). Each factor alone need not generate Zipf’s law. Our model provides a justification for classical urban economics models that have been criticized for not delivering Zipf’s law, since a single model typically represents only one factor among many present in reality.

Suggested Citation

  • Lee, Sanghoon & Li, Qiang, 2013. "Uneven landscapes and city size distributions," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 19-29.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:juecon:v:78:y:2013:i:c:p:19-29
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2013.05.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Albouy, David & Behrens, Kristian & Robert-Nicoud, Frédéric & Seegert, Nathan, 2016. "The optimal distribution of population across cities," CEPR Discussion Papers 11616, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Behrens, Kristian & Robert-Nicoud, Frédéric, 2015. "Agglomeration Theory with Heterogeneous Agents," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    3. repec:eee:juecon:v:104:y:2018:i:c:p:16-34 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Ioannides, Yannis M., 2015. "Neighborhoods to nations via social interactions," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 5-15.
    5. Duranton, Gilles & Puga, Diego, 2014. "The Growth of Cities," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 5, pages 781-853 Elsevier.
    6. Desmet, Klaus & Rappaport, Jordan, 2017. "The settlement of the United States, 1800–2000: The long transition towards Gibrat’s law," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 50-68.
    7. Ioannides, Yannis M. & Zhang, Junfu, 2017. "Walled cities in late imperial China," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 71-88.
    8. repec:spr:empeco:v:53:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s00181-016-1147-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Desmet, Klaus & Henderson, J. Vernon, 2015. "The Geography of Development Within Countries," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    10. Ramos, Arturo, 2015. "Are the log-growth rates of city sizes normally distributed? Empirical evidence for the US," MPRA Paper 65584, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Ramos, Arturo & Sanz-Gracia, Fernando, 2015. "US city size distribution revisited: Theory and empirical evidence," MPRA Paper 64051, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    City size distribution; Zipf’s law; Rank-size rule; Log-normal distribution;

    JEL classification:

    • D39 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Other
    • 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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