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Zipf’S Law: Main Issues In Empirical Work

  • Rafael GONZÀLEZ-VAL

    (Universitat de Barcelona & Institut d'Economia de Barcelona)

One of the stylised facts in Urban Economics is Zipf’s law, according to which city size distribution in many countries can be approximated by a Pareto distribution, whose exponent is equal to one. In this paper we point out the three main issues in any empirical work on city size distribution and Zipf’s law : city definition, sample size, and the choice of the estimator. We review the more recent developments, especially those related to the relationship between the geographical unit chosen and sample size, and the features of the different methods to estimate the Pareto exponent. We illustrate the arguments, providing empirical examples using actual data from the city size distribution in the United States.

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Article provided by Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var in its journal Région et Développement.

Volume (Year): 36 (2012)
Issue (Month): ()
Pages: 147-164

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Handle: RePEc:tou:journl:v:36:y:2012:p:147-164
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