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Deviations from Zipf’s Law for American Cities


  • Rafael González-Val



This paper presents a simple method for calculating deviations between actual city size and the size which would correspond to it with a Pareto exponent equal to one (Zipf’s law). The results show two differentiated behaviours: most cities (80.25 per cent) present a greater size than that which would fulfil Zipf’s law, while small cities (19.75 per cent) tend to be too small. The aim of the paper is to analyse the distribution element by element, using data about city characteristics from all American cities in 2000, and to explain the deviation between the size predicted by Zipf’s law and the actual size of each city. To do this, a multinomial logit model is used. The most important variables affecting the probability of a city presenting a negative or positive deviation are per capita income, human capital levels and the percentage of the population employed in some sectors.

Suggested Citation

  • Rafael González-Val, 2011. "Deviations from Zipf’s Law for American Cities," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 48(5), pages 1017-1035, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:urbstu:v:48:y:2011:i:5:p:1017-1035

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Charles Himmelberg & Christopher Mayer & Todd Sinai, 2005. "Assessing High House Prices: Bubbles, Fundamentals and Misperceptions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 67-92, Fall.
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    5. Davis, Morris A. & Heathcote, Jonathan, 2007. "The price and quantity of residential land in the United States," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(8), pages 2595-2620, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tarsha EASON & Ahjond S. GARMESTANI, 2012. "Cross-Scale Dynamics Of A Regional Urban System Through Time," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 36, pages 55-77.
    2. Rafael GONZÀLEZ-VAL, 2012. "Zipf’S Law: Main Issues In Empirical Work," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 36, pages 147-164.

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