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A century of shocks: The evolution of the German city size distribution 1925-1999

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  • Bosker, Maarten
  • Brakman, Steven
  • Garretsen, Harry
  • Schramm, Marc

Abstract

This paper uses empirical evidence on the evolution and structure of the West-German city size distribution to assess the relevance of three different theories of urban growth. The West-German case is of particular interest as Germany's urban system has been subject to some of history's largest (exogenous) shocks during the 20th century. A unique annual data set for 62 West-German cities that covers the period 1925-1999 allows for the identification of these shocks and provides evidence on the effects of these 'quasi-natural experiments' on the city size distribution as a whole as well as on each city separately. Our main findings are twofold. First, WWII has had a major and lasting impact on the city size distribution. Second, and heavily based upon the results of (panel) unit root tests that analyze the evolution of the individual cities that make up the West-German city size distribution, city growth is found to be trend stationary, which is not in line with Gibrat's Law of proportional effect. Overall, our findings are most consistent with theories emphasizing the role of increasing returns to scale for city growth.

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  • Bosker, Maarten & Brakman, Steven & Garretsen, Harry & Schramm, Marc, 2008. "A century of shocks: The evolution of the German city size distribution 1925-1999," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 330-347, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:regeco:v:38:y:2008:i:4:p:330-347
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Kristian Giesen & Jens Südekum, 2011. "Zipf's law for cities in the regions and the country," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(4), pages 667-686, July.
    2. Sánchez-Vidal, María & González-Val, Rafael & Viladecans-Marsal, Elisabet, 2014. "Sequential city growth in the US: Does age matter?," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 29-37.
    3. repec:anr:reveco:v:9:y:2017:p:21-58 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Chauvin, Juan Pablo & Glaeser, Edward & Ma, Yueran & Tobio, Kristina, 2017. "What is different about urbanization in rich and poor countries? Cities in Brazil, China, India and the United States," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 17-49.
    5. Stephen J. Redding, 2010. "The Empirics Of New Economic Geography," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(1), pages 297-311.
    6. Ibragimov Marat & Khamidov Rufat, 2010. "Heavy-Tailedness and Volatility in Emerging Foreign Exchange Markets: Theory and Empirics," EERC Working Paper Series 10/06e, EERC Research Network, Russia and CIS.
    7. Stephen J. Redding & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2017. "Quantitative Spatial Economics," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 9(1), pages 21-58, September.
    8. Ikeda, Kiyohrio & Onda, Mikihisa & Takayama, Yuki, 2017. "Bifurcation theory of a square lattice economy: Racetrack economy analogy in an economic geography model," MPRA Paper 78120, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Wu, Jian-Xin & He, Ling-Yun, 2017. "How do Chinese cities grow? A distribution dynamics approach," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 470(C), pages 105-118.
    10. Sarabia, José María & Prieto, Faustino, 2009. "The Pareto-positive stable distribution: A new descriptive model for city size data," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 388(19), pages 4179-4191.
    11. Rafael González-Val & Arturo Ramos & Fernando Sanz-Gracia, 2014. "A new framework for US city size distribution: Empirical evidence and theory," ERSA conference papers ersa14p633, European Regional Science Association.
    12. Cerqueti, Roy & Ausloos, Marcel, 2015. "Evidence of economic regularities and disparities of Italian regions from aggregated tax income size data," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 421(C), pages 187-207.
    13. González-Val, Rafael & Marcén, Miriam, 2012. "Breaks in the breaks: An analysis of divorce rates in Europe," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 242-255.
    14. Sen, Hu & Chunxia, Yang & Xueshuai, Zhu & Zhilai, Zheng & Ya, Cao, 2015. "Distributions of region size and GDP and their relation," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 430(C), pages 46-56.
    15. González-Val, Rafael & Marcén, Miriam, 2012. "Unilateral divorce versus child custody and child support in the U.S," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 613-643.
    16. Kii, Masanobu & Akimoto, Keigo & Doi, Kenji, 2012. "Random-growth urban model with geographical fitness," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 391(23), pages 5960-5970.
    17. Ramos, Arturo & Sanz-Gracia, Fernando, 2015. "US city size distribution revisited: Theory and empirical evidence," MPRA Paper 64051, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. repec:eee:exehis:v:65:y:2017:i:c:p:1-16 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Ibragimov, Marat & Ibragimov, Rustam & Kattuman, Paul, 2013. "Emerging markets and heavy tails," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(7), pages 2546-2559.
    20. Xu, Hangtian, 2016. "Multiple Equilibria in the Urban Spatial Structure: Evidence from the Hanshin Earthquake," MPRA Paper 75219, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    21. repec:eee:ememar:v:32:y:2017:i:c:p:200-219 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. Kwok Tong Soo, 2015. "Innovation across cities," Working Papers 100098721, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    23. Gómez-Déniz, Emilio & Calderín-Ojeda, Enrique, 2015. "On the use of the Pareto ArcTan distribution for describing city size in Australia and New Zealand," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 436(C), pages 821-832.

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