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Gibrat’s Law and the British Industrial Revolution

  • Klein, Alexander

    (University of Kent)

  • Leunig, Tim

    (London School of Economics)

This paper examines Gibrat’s law in England and Wales between 1801 and 1911using a unique data set covering the entire settlement size distribution.We find that Gibrat’s law broadly holds even in the face of population doubling every fifty years,an industrial and transportrevolution, and the absence of zoning laws to constrain growth. The result is strongest for the later period, and in counties most affected by the industrial revolution. The exception were villages in areas bypassed by the industrial revolution.We argue that agglomeration externalities balanced urban disamenities such as commuting costs and poor living conditions to ensure steady growth of many places, rather than exceptional growth of few.

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Paper provided by Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) in its series CAGE Online Working Paper Series with number 146.

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Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:146
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  1. Leunig, Timothy, 2006. "Time is Money: A Re-Assessment of the Passenger Social Savings from Victorian British Railways," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(03), pages 635-673, September.
  2. Cameron, Gavin & Muellbauer, John, 1998. "The Housing Market and Regional Commuting and Migration Choices," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 45(4), pages 420-46, September.
  3. Jonathan Eaton & Zvi Eckstein, 1994. "Cities and Growth: Theory and Evidence from France and Japan," NBER Working Papers 4612, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Esteban Rossi-Hansberg & Mark L. J. Wright, 2003. "Urban structure and growth," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 141, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  5. Michaels, Guy & Rauch, Ferdinand & Redding, Stephen J., 2008. "Urbanization and Structural Transformation," CEPR Discussion Papers 7016, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Alexander Klein & Nicholas Crafts, 2012. "Making sense of the manufacturing belt: determinants of U.S. industrial location, 1880--1920," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 775-807, July.
  7. Tim Leunig, 2003. "A British industrial success: productivity in the Lancashire and New England cotton spinning industries a century ago," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 494, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  8. Xavier Gabaix & Yannis M. Ioannides, 2003. "The Evolution of City Size Distributions," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0310, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  9. Duncan Black & Vernon Henderson, 1999. "A Theory of Urban Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 252-284, April.
  10. Henderson, J V, 1974. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(4), pages 640-56, September.
  11. J. R. Wordie, 1983. "The Chronology of English Enclosure, 1500-1914," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 36(4), pages 483-505, November.
  12. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
  13. E.H. Hunt & S.J. Pam, 1997. "Prices and structural response in English agriculture, 1873–1896," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 50(3), pages 477-505, 08.
  14. Edward L. Glaeser & Giacomo A.M. Ponzetto & Kristina Tobio, 2011. "Cities, Skills, and Regional Change," NBER Working Papers 16934, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Williamson,Jeffrey G., 1990. "Coping with City Growth during the British Industrial Revolution," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521364805.
  16. Henry G. Overman & Yannis Ioannides, 2000. "Zipf's law for cities: an empirical examination," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20136, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  17. Jan Eeckhout, 2004. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1429-1451, December.
  18. O'Rourke, Kevin H. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 2004. "Once more: When did globalisation begin?," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(01), pages 109-117, April.
  19. Duncan Black & Vernon Henderson, 2003. "Urban evolution in the USA," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(4), pages 343-372, October.
  20. John Sutton, 1997. "Gibrat's Legacy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(1), pages 40-59, March.
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