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Survival of the fittest in cities: agglomeration, selection, and polarisation

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  • Behrens, Kristian
  • Robert-Nicoud, Frédéric

Abstract

Empirical studies consistently report that labour productivity and TFP rise with city size. The reason is that cities attract the most productive agents, select the best of them, and make the selected ones even more productive via various agglomeration economies. This paper provides a microeconomically founded model of vertical city differentiation in which the latter two mechanisms (`agglomeration' and `selection') operate simultaneously. Our model is both rich and tractable enough to allow for a detailed investigation of when cities emerge, what determines their size, and how they interact through the channels of trade. We then uncover stylised facts and suggestive econometric evidence that are consistent with the most distinctive equilibrium features of our model. We show, in particular, that larger cities are both more productive and more unequal (`polarised'), that inter-city trade is associated with higher income inequalities, and that the proximity of large urban centres inhibits the development of nearby cities.

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  • Behrens, Kristian & Robert-Nicoud, Frédéric, 2008. "Survival of the fittest in cities: agglomeration, selection, and polarisation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28506, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:28506
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    1. Papers of the Day
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    1. Fabien Candau & Marc Fleurbaey, 2011. "Agglomeration and Welfare with Heterogeneous Preferences," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 685-708, September.
    2. Yasuhiro Sato & Takatoshi Tabuchi & Kazuhiro Yamamoto, 2012. "Market size and entrepreneurship," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(6), pages 1139-1166, November.
    3. Ottaviano, Gianmarco I.P., 2012. "Agglomeration, trade and selection," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(6), pages 987-997.
    4. Matthias Wrede, 2013. "Heterogeneous skills and homogeneous land: segmentation and agglomeration," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(5), pages 767-798, September.
    5. Di Addario, Sabrina & Vuri, Daniela, 2010. "Entrepreneurship and market size. The case of young college graduates in Italy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 848-858, October.
    6. Fabien Candau, 2013. "Trade, FDI and Migration," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 27(3), pages 441-461, September.
    7. Kristian Behrens & Frédéric Robert-Nicoud, 2009. "Survival of the Fittest in Cities: Agglomeration, Polarization, and Income Inequality," Cahiers de recherche 0919, CIRPEE.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    entrepreneur heterogeneity; firm selection; agglomeration; income inequalities; urbanization; urban systems;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation

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