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The Size Distribution Across All "Cities": A Unifying Approach

  • Kristian Giesen
  • Jens Suedekum

Older cities in the US tend to be larger than younger ones. The distribution of city sizes is, therefore, systematically related to the country's city age distribution. We introduce endogenous city creation into a dynamic economic model of an urban system. All cities exhibit the same long-run growth rate (Gibrat's law), but young cities initially grow faster. The double Pareto lognormal (DPLN) emerges as the city size distribution in our model. The DPLN unifies the lognormal and the Pareto distribution (Zipf's law), and closely fits US city size data. This evidence can potentially resolve several debates from the recent literature.

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Paper provided by Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE in its series SERC Discussion Papers with number 0122.

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Date of creation: Dec 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cep:sercdp:0122
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.spatialeconomics.ac.uk/SERC/publications/default.asp

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  1. Harris Dobkins, Linda & Ioannides, Yannis M., 2001. "Spatial interactions among U.S. cities: 1900-1990," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 701-731, November.
  2. J.V. Henderson, 1972. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," Working Papers 75, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  3. Kwok Tong Soo, 2004. "Zipfs Law for Cities: A Cross Country Investigation," CEP Discussion Papers dp0641, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  4. Wen‐Tai Hsu, 2012. "Central Place Theory and City Size Distribution," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(563), pages 903-932, 09.
  5. Jan Eeckhout, 2004. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1429-1451, December.
  6. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
  7. Reed, William J., 2003. "The Pareto law of incomes—an explanation and an extension," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 319(C), pages 469-486.
  8. Esteban Rossi-Hansberg & Mark L.J. Wright, 2005. "Urban Structure and Growth," NBER Working Papers 11262, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Ioannides, Yannis & Skouras, Spyros, 2013. "US city size distribution: Robustly Pareto, but only in the tail," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 18-29.
  10. David Cuberes, 2010. "Sequential city growth: empirical evidence," Working Papers. Serie AD 2010-05, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  11. Cuberes, David, 2008. "A Model of Sequential City Growth," MPRA Paper 8431, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  12. María Sánchez-Vidal & Rafael González-Val & Elisabet Viladecans-Marsal, 2013. "Sequential city growth in the US: does age matter?," Working Papers 2013/1, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  13. González-Val, Rafael & Ramos, Arturo & Sanz, Fernando & Vera-Cabello, María, 2013. "Size Distributions for All Cities: Which One is Best?," MPRA Paper 44314, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  14. Vernon Henderson & Anthony Venables, 2009. "Dynamics of city formation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(2), pages 233-254, April.
  15. Henderson, J. Vernon & Wang, Hyoung Gun, 2007. "Urbanization and city growth: The role of institutions," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 283-313, May.
  16. Nitsch, Volker, 2004. "Zipf zipped," Discussion Papers 2004/16, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  17. Hernán D. Rozenfeld & Diego Rybski & Xavier Gabaix & Hernán A. Makse, 2009. "The Area and Population of Cities: New Insights from a Different Perspective on Cities," NBER Working Papers 15409, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. William J. Reed, 2002. "On the Rank-Size Distribution for Human Settlements," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(1), pages 1-17.
  19. Yannis M. Ioannides & Spyros Skouras, 2009. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities: A Rejoinder," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0740, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  20. Jan Eeckhout, 2009. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1676-83, September.
  21. Giesen, Kristian & Zimmermann, Arndt & Suedekum, Jens, 2010. "The size distribution across all cities - Double Pareto lognormal strikes," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 129-137, September.
  22. Moshe Levy, 2009. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1672-75, September.
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