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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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    2. Kristian Giesen & Jens Suedekum, 2012. "The Size Distribution Across All 'Cities': A Unifying Approach," SERC Discussion Papers 0122, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
    3. Rosenthal, Stuart S. & Ross, Stephen L., 2015. "Change and Persistence in the Economic Status of Neighborhoods and Cities," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: Gilles Duranton & J. V. Henderson & William C. Strange (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 0, pages 1047-1120, Elsevier.
    4. Antonio Accetturo & Michele Cascarano & Guido de Blasio, 2019. "Dynamics of urban growth: Italy, 1951–2011," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 36(2), pages 373-398, July.
    5. Rafael González‐Val, 2019. "Historical urban growth in Europe (1300–1800)," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 98(2), pages 1115-1136, April.
    6. Behrens, Kristian & Robert-Nicoud, Frédéric, 2015. "Agglomeration Theory with Heterogeneous Agents," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: Gilles Duranton & J. V. Henderson & William C. Strange (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 0, pages 171-245, Elsevier.
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    8. César Ducruet & Réka Juhász & Dávid Krisztián Nagy & Claudia Steinwender, 2019. "All Aboard: The Aggregate Effects of Port Development," Working Papers 1160, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    9. Vanessa Grüdtner & André M. Marques, 2020. "Is Gibrat's law robust when cities interact each other?," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 99(4), pages 1087-1111, August.
    10. González-Val, Rafael, 2018. "The spatial distribution of US cities," MPRA Paper 89586, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Rutger-Jan Lange & Coen N. Teulings, 2021. "The option value of vacant land: Don't build when demand for housing is booming," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 21-022/IV, Tinbergen Institute.
    12. Ioannides, Yannis M. & Zhang, Junfu, 2017. "Walled cities in late imperial China," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 71-88.
    13. Hanlon, W. Walker & Miscio, Antonio, 2017. "Agglomeration: A long-run panel data approach," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 1-14.
    14. 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(1), pages 81-117, March.
    15. 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.
    16. Antonio Accetturo & Sauro Mocetti, 2019. "Historical Origins and Developments of Italian Cities," Italian Economic Journal: A Continuation of Rivista Italiana degli Economisti and Giornale degli Economisti, Springer;Società Italiana degli Economisti (Italian Economic Association), vol. 5(2), pages 205-222, July.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    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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