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Building(s and) cities: delineating urban areas with a machine learning algorithm

Author

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  • Daniel Arribas-Bel

    (University of Liverpool)

  • Miquel-Àngel Garcia-López

    (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona & IEB)

  • Elisabet Viladecans-Marsal

    (Universitat de Barcelona & IEB)

Abstract

This paper proposes a novel methodology for delineating urban areas based on a machine learning algorithm that groups buildings within portions of space of sufficient density. To do so, we use the precise geolocation of all 12 million buildings in Spain. We exploit building heights to create a new dimension for urban areas, namely, the vertical land, which provides a more accurate measure of their size. To better understand their internal structure and to illustrate an additional use for our algorithm, we also identify employment centers within the delineated urban areas. We test the robustness of our method and compare our urban areas to other delineations obtained using administrative borders and commuting-based patterns. We show that: 1) our urban areas are more similar to the commuting-based delineations than the administrative boundaries but that they are more precisely measured; 2) when analyzing the urban areas’ size distribution, Zipf’s law appears to hold for their population, surface and vertical land; and 3) the impact of transportation improvements on the size of the urban areas is not underestimated.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Arribas-Bel & Miquel-Àngel Garcia-López & Elisabet Viladecans-Marsal, 2019. "Building(s and) cities: delineating urban areas with a machine learning algorithm," Working Papers 2019/10, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  • Handle: RePEc:ieb:wpaper:doc2019-10
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    Cited by:

    1. Bosker, Maarten & Park, Jane & Roberts, Mark, 2021. "Definition matters. Metropolitan areas and agglomeration economies in a large-developing country," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 125(C).
    2. de Bellefon, Marie-Pierre & Combes, Pierre-Philippe & Duranton, Gilles & Gobillon, Laurent & Gorin, Clément, 2021. "Delineating urban areas using building density," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 125(C).
    3. Morgan Ubeda, 2020. "Local Amenities, Commuting Costs and Income Disparities Within Cities," Working Papers halshs-03082448, HAL.
    4. Pengfei Ban & Wei Zhan & Qifeng Yuan & Xiaojian Li, 2021. "Delineating the Urban Areas of a Cross-Boundary City with Open-Access Data: Guangzhou–Foshan, South China," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(5), pages 1-17, March.
    5. Puente-Ajovín, Miguel & Ramos, Arturo & Sanz-Gracia, Fernando & Arribas-Bel, Daniel, 2020. "How sensitive is city size distribution to the definition of city? The case of Spain," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 197(C).
    6. Rafael González-Val, 2021. "The Spanish spatial city size distribution," Environment and Planning B, , vol. 48(6), pages 1609-1631, July.
    7. Ahlfeldt, Gabriel M. & Barr, Jason, 2022. "Viewing urban spatial history from tall buildings," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C).
    8. Imryoung Jeong & Hyunjoo Yang, 2021. "Using maps to predict economic activity," Papers 2112.13850, arXiv.org, revised Apr 2022.
    9. Vanhatalo, Jaana & Partanen, Jenni, 2022. "Exploring the spectrum of urban area key figures using data from Finland and proposing guidelines for delineation of urban areas," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 112(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Buildings; urban areas; city size; transportation; machine learning;
    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)
    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • R2 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis
    • R4 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics

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