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The Settlement of the United States, 1800 to 2000: The Long Transition towards Gibrat's Law

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  • Desmet, Klaus
  • Rappaport, Jordan

Abstract

This paper studies the long run development of U.S. counties and metro areas from 1800 to 2000. In earlier periods smaller counties converge whereas larger counties diverge. Over time, due to changes in the age composition of locations and net congestion, convergence dissipates and divergence weakens. Gibrat's law emerges gradually without fully attaining it. Our findings suggest that orthogonal growth is a consequence of reaching a steady state population distribution, rather than an explanation of that distribution. A simple one-sector model, with entry of new locations, a growth friction, and decreasing net congestion closely matches these and related dynamics.

Suggested Citation

  • Desmet, Klaus & Rappaport, Jordan, 2013. "The Settlement of the United States, 1800 to 2000: The Long Transition towards Gibrat's Law," CEPR Discussion Papers 9353, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9353
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    Cited by:

    1. Rafael González‐Val, 2019. "Historical urban growth in Europe (1300–1800)," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 98(2), pages 1115-1136, April.
    2. Kristian Giesen & Jens Suedekum, 2012. "The Size Distribution across all "Cities": A Unifying Approach," CESifo Working Paper Series 3730, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Beltrán Tapia, Francisco J. & Díez-Minguela, Alfonso & Martinez-Galarraga, Julio, 2018. "Tracing the Evolution of Agglomeration Economies: Spain, 1860–1991," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 78(01), pages 81-117, March.
    4. repec:eee:juecon:v:99:y:2017:i:c:p:1-14 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Rosenthal, Stuart S. & Ross, Stephen L., 2015. "Change and Persistence in the Economic Status of Neighborhoods and Cities," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    6. Ioannides, Yannis M. & Zhang, Junfu, 2017. "Walled cities in late imperial China," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 71-88.
    7. Behrens, Kristian & Robert-Nicoud, Frédéric, 2015. "Agglomeration Theory with Heterogeneous Agents," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    8. repec:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa14p34 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. González-Val, Rafael, 2018. "The spatial distribution of US cities," MPRA Paper 89586, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Beltràn Tapia, F. & Díez-Minguela, A. & Martínez-Galarraga, J., 2017. "The Shadow of Cities: Size, Location and the Spatial Distribution of Population in Spain," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1749, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    11. Jørn Rattsø & Hildegunn E. Stokke, 2014. "Population Divergence and Income Convergence: Regional Distribution Dynamics for Norway," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(11), pages 1884-1895, November.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Gibrat's law; growth across space; long-term development; settlement of US; spatial distribution of population;

    JEL classification:

    • N91 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N92 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes
    • 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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