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A Century of Shocks: The Evolution of the German City Size Distribution 1925 – 1999

Author

Listed:
  • Maarten Bosker
  • Steven Brakman
  • Harry Garretsen
  • Marc Schramm

Abstract

The empirical literature on city size distributions has mainly focused on the USA. The first major contribution of this paper is to provide empirical evidence on the evolution and structure of the West-German city size distribution. Using a unique annual data set that covers most of the 20th century for 62 of West-Germany's largest cities, we look at the evolution of both the city size distribution as a whole and each city separately. The West-German case is of particular interest as it has undergone major shocks, most notably WWII. Our data set allows us to identify these shocks and provide evidence on the effects of these `quasi-natural experiments' on the city size distribution. The second major contribution of this paper is that we perform unit-root tests on individual German city sizes using a substantial number of observations to analyze the evolution of the individual cities that make up the German city size distribution. Our main findings are twofold. First, WWII has had a major and lasting impact on the city size distribution. Second, the overall city size distribution does not adhere to Zipf's Law. This second finding is largely based on the results of unit root tests for individual cities to test for Gibrat's Law, the latter being a requirement for Zipf's Law to hold for the overall city-size distribution. Together these two findings are consistent with theories emphasizing increasing returns to scale in city growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Maarten Bosker & Steven Brakman & Harry Garretsen & Marc Schramm, 2006. "A Century of Shocks: The Evolution of the German City Size Distribution 1925 – 1999," CESifo Working Paper Series 1728, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1728
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Denise PUMAIN, 2012. "Une Théorie Géographique Pour La Loi De Zipf," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 36, pages 31-54.
    2. Maria Florencia Granato, 2011. "REGIONAL NEW ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY (refereed paper)," ERSA conference papers ersa10p747, European Regional Science Association.
    3. Stephen J. Redding, 2010. "The Empirics Of New Economic Geography," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(1), pages 297-311.
    4. 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.
    5. González-Val, Rafael & Lanaspa, Luis & Sanz, Fernando, 2008. "New Evidence on Gibrat’s Law for Cities," MPRA Paper 10411, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Daniel ARRIBAS-BEL & Fernando SANZ GRACIA & Domingo P. XIMENEZ-DE-EMBUN, 2012. "Kangaroos, Cities And Space: A First Approach To The Australian Urban System," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 36, pages 165-187.
    7. Rafael González-Val & Arturo Ramos & Fernando Sanz-Gracia & María Vera-Cabello, 2015. "Size distributions for all cities: Which one is best?," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 94(1), pages 177-196, March.
    8. Redding, Stephen, 2009. "Economic geography: a review of the theoretical and empirical literature," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 25500, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. repec:asg:wpaper:1011 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Rafael González-Val & Luis Lanaspa & Fernando Sanz, 2011. "Gibrat's Law for Cities Revisited," ERSA conference papers ersa10p199, European Regional Science Association.
    11. Rafael González-Val & Arturo Ramos-Gutiérrez & Fernando Sanz-Gracia, 2011. "Size Distributions for All Cities: Lognormal and q-exponential functions," ERSA conference papers ersa11p554, European Regional Science Association.
    12. Bosker, Maarten & Brakman, Steven & Garretsen, Harry & Schramm, Marc, 2007. "Looking for multiple equilibria when geography matters: German city growth and the WWII shock," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 152-169, January.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • 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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