The settlement of the United States, 1800 to 2000: the long transition towards Gibrat's law
A prominent strand of economic literature argues that population growth rates across locations areas are uncorrelated with the population levels of those locations (“Gibrat’s Law”). Such uncorrelated growth, it is argued, can account for the current distribution of population across locations. This paper shows that, on the contrary, locations’ population growth throughout U.S. history has always been highly correlated with their initial population levels. Throughout the entire 19th century and the early 20th century, low-population locations tended to grow faster than intermediate-population locations, thereby causing the distribution of population to become more compressed. Throughout the second half of the 19th century and the entire 20th century, population growth among the highest-population locations was faster than population growth among intermediate-population locations, thereby causing the distribution of population to become more dispersed. ; This pattern of population growth is driven by two separate forces. First is the “entry” of new locations into the United States as the country spread westward. These locations typically entered with a low population after which many of them gradually transitioned up to much larger ones. Such transitions can account for the faster growth of low population locations. Second, the congestion arising from limited supplies of land within any given location may have eased over time. This may have occurred, for example, with the technology-driven move by workers from agriculture to manufacturing and services. Such a shift would cause high-population places to grow faster. ; Understanding historical population growth across locations gives insight into near-future population growth. For example, since 2000 population growth in larger locations (though not necessarily the very largest) has tended to outpace population growth in intermediate and smaller locations. This suggests that ongoing technological change may be continuing to relieve the “congestion” associated with living in large metro areas while increasing the disadvantages of living in small locations. Rapid advances in information technology are a possible source of such technological change.
|Date of creation:||2013|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: 1 Memorial Drive, Kansas City, MO 64198-0001|
Phone: (816) 881-2254
Web page: http://www.kansascityfed.org/
More information through EDIRC
|Order Information:|| Email: |
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Mitchener, Kris James & McLean, Ian W., 1999.
"U.S.Regional Growth And Convergence, 1880–1980,"
The Journal of Economic History,
Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(04), pages 1016-1042, December.
- Giesen, Kristian & Suedekum, Jens, 2014.
"City age and city size,"
European Economic Review,
Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 193-208.
- Südekum, Jens & Giesen, Kristian, 2013. "City Age and City Size," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79996, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
- Giesen, Kristian & Suedekum, Jens, 2013. "City age and city size," DICE Discussion Papers 120, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE), University of Düsseldorf.
- Guy Michaels & Ferdinand Rauch & Stephen J. Redding, 2012.
"Urbanization and Structural Transformation,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
Oxford University Press, vol. 127(2), pages 535-586.
- Michaels, Guy & Rauch, Ferdinand & Redding, Stephen J., 2008. "Urbanization and Structural Transformation," CEPR Discussion Papers 7016, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Guy Michaels & Ferdinand Rauch & Stephen Redding, 2008. "Urbanisation and structural transformation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 25495, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
- Guy Michaels & Ferdinand Rauch & Stephen Redding, 2008. "Urbanisation and Structural Transformation," CEP Discussion Papers dp0892, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
- Dinkelman, Taryn & Schulhofer-Wohl, Sam, 2015.
"Migration, congestion externalities, and the evaluation of spatial investments,"
Journal of Development Economics,
Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 189-202.
- Schulhofer-Wohl, Sam & Dinkelman, Taryn, 2015. "Migration, Congestion Externalities, and the Evaluation of Spatial Investments," Staff Report 506, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
- Taryn Dinkelman & Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, 2012. "Migration, congestion externalities, and the evaluation of spatial investments," Working Papers 700, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
- Taryn Dinkelman & Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, 2015. "Migration, Congestion Externalities, and the Evaluation of Spatial Investments," NBER Working Papers 20842, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Dinkelman, Taryn & Schulhofer-Wohl, Sam, 2012. "Migration, Congestion Externalities, and the Evaluation of Spatial Investments," CEPR Discussion Papers 9126, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf's Law for Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fip:fedkrw:rwp13-02. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Lu Dayrit)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.