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City size distribution in China: are large cities dominant?

  • Zelai Xu
  • Nong Zhu
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    This paper examines the evolution in size distribution of Chinese cities. Since the relaxation of restrictions on rural/urban migration in the 1980s, China has experienced rapid urban growth. However, cities of different sizes have experienced varying patterns of growth. We first describe the evolution of city size distribution in China by documenting the growth both of city size and of the number of existing cities. Then, focusing on the period from 1990-2000, we characterize the urban evolution trend with the Pareto law estimation, and examine the mobility of cities between different size groups with the Markov transition matrix. We also test the convergence hypothesis in the city population growth process. Our results suggest that, contrary to the expected dominance of large cities' growth, Chinese city size distribution evened out over the 1990s, with small cities growing more rapidly than large cities.

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    File URL: http://www.cirano.qc.ca/files/publications/2014s-04.pdf
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    Paper provided by CIRANO in its series CIRANO Working Papers with number 2014s-04.

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    Length: 26 pages
    Date of creation: 01 Jan 2014
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2014s-04
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    1. Chang, Kyung-Sup, 1994. "Chinese urbanization and development before and after economic reform: A comparative reappraisal," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 601-613, April.
    2. Glaeser, Edward L. & Scheinkman, JoseA. & Shleifer, Andrei, 1995. "Economic growth in a cross-section of cities," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 117-143, August.
    3. Chun-Chung Au & Vernon Henderson, 2002. "How Migration Restrictions Limit Agglomeration and Productivity in China," NBER Working Papers 8707, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Gabaix, Xavier & Ioannides, Yannis M., 2004. "The evolution of city size distributions," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 53, pages 2341-2378 Elsevier.
    5. Xavier Gabaix & Rustam Ibragimov, 2006. "Log(Rank-1/2): A Simple Way to Improve the OLS Estimation of Tail Exponents," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2106, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    6. Soo, Kwok Tong, 2005. "Zipf's Law for cities: a cross-country investigation," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 239-263, May.
    7. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
    8. Jonathan Eaton & Zvi Eckstein, 1994. "Cities and Growth: Theory and Evidence from france and Japan," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 36, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
    9. Rosenthal, Stuart S. & Strange, William C., 2004. "Evidence on the nature and sources of agglomeration economies," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 49, pages 2119-2171 Elsevier.
    10. Duncan Black & Vernon Henderson, 2003. "Urban evolution in the USA," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(4), pages 343-372, October.
    11. Henderson, J V, 1974. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(4), pages 640-56, September.
    12. Gilles Duranton, 1997. "La nouvelle économie géographique : agglomération et dispersion," Économie et Prévision, Programme National Persée, vol. 131(5), pages 1-24.
    13. Nitsch, Volker, 2004. "Zipf zipped," Discussion Papers 2004/16, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
    14. Vernon Henderson & Duncan Black, 1999. "Spatial Evolution of Population and Industry in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 321-327, May.
    15. Anderson, Gordon & Ge, Ying, 2005. "The size distribution of Chinese cities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(6), pages 756-776, November.
    16. Rosen, Kenneth T. & Resnick, Mitchel, 1980. "The size distribution of cities: An examination of the Pareto law and primacy," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 165-186, September.
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