IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The productivity advantages of large cities: Distinguishing agglomeration from firm selection

  • Pierre Philippe Combes


    (University of AixMarseille and CEPR)

  • Gilles Duranton


    (University of Toronto and CEPR)

  • Laurent Gobillon


    (Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques, PSEINRA, and CREST)

  • Diego Puga


    (IMDEA Social Sciences Institute)

  • Sébastien Roux



Firms are more productive on average in larger cities. Two explanations have been offered: agglomeration economies (larger cities promote interactions that increase productivity) and firm selection (larger cities toughen competition allowing only the most productive to survive). To distinguish between them, we nest a generalised version of a tractable firm selection model and a standard model of agglomeration. Stronger selection in larger cities left-truncates the productivity distribution whereas stronger agglomeration right-shifts and dilates the distribution. We assess the relative importance of agglomeration and firm selection using French establishment-level data and a new quantile approach. Spatial productivity differences in France are mostly explained by agglomeration.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados (IMDEA) Ciencias Sociales in its series Working Papers with number 2009-02.

in new window

Date of creation: 20 Feb 2009
Date of revision: 30 Nov 2010
Publication status: Forthcoming in Econometrica
Handle: RePEc:imd:wpaper:wp2009-02
Note: This paper is included in the IMDEA Social Sciences Working Paper Series through the PROCIUDAD-CM and the Bank of Spain Excellence Programmes
Contact details of provider: Postal: Veláquez 76, 28001 Madrid
Phone: +34917816570
Fax: +34916766052
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
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.:

as in new window
  1. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen, 1997. "Exceptional Exporter Performance: Cause, Effect, or Both?," NBER Working Papers 6272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Marc J. Melitz & Gianmarco I.P. Ottaviano, 2005. "Market Size, Trade, and Productivity," NBER Working Papers 11393, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Antonio Ciccone & Robert E. Hall, 1995. "Productivity and the density of economic activity," Economics Working Papers 120, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  4. Carol Corrado & John Haltiwanger & Dan Sichel, 2005. "Measuring Capital in the New Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number corr05-1, July.
  5. Pierre-Philippe Combes & Gilles Duranton & Laurent Gobillon & Sébastien Roux, 2010. "Estimating agglomeration economies with history, geology and worker effects," Post-Print halshs-00754795, HAL.
  6. J. Vernon Henderson, 1994. "Externalities and Industrial Development," NBER Working Papers 4730, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Wagner, Alfred, 1891. "Marshall's Principles of Economics," History of Economic Thought Articles, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 5, pages 319-338.
  8. Gianmarco Ottaviano & Takatoshi Tabuchi & Jacques-FranÁois Thisse, 2002. "Agglomeration and Trade Revisited," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 43(2), pages 409-436, May.
  9. James Levinsohn & Amil Petrin, 2003. "Estimating Production Functions Using Inputs to Control for Unobservables," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(2), pages 317-341, 04.
  10. Alla Lileeva & Daniel Trefler, 2007. "Improved Access to Foreign Markets Raises Plant-Level Productivity ... for Some Plants," NBER Working Papers 13297, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Allan Collard-Wexler, 2011. "Productivity Dispersion and Plant Selection in the Ready-Mix Concrete Industry," Working Papers 11-25, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  12. Foster, Lucia & Haltiwanger, John C. & Syverson, Chad, 2005. "Reallocation, Firm Turnover, and Efficiency: Selection on Productivity or Profitability?," IZA Discussion Papers 1705, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Glaeser, Edward L. (ed.), 2010. "Agglomeration Economics," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226297897, March.
  14. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
  15. Duranton, Gilles & Puga, Diego, 2004. "Micro-foundations of urban agglomeration economies," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 48, pages 2063-2117 Elsevier.
  16. Edward L. Glaeser & David C. Mare, 1994. "Cities and Skills," NBER Working Papers 4728, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Richard E. Baldwin & Toshihiro Okubo, 2006. "Heterogeneous firms, agglomeration and economic geography: spatial selection and sorting," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(3), pages 323-346, June.
  18. Head, Keith & Mayer, Thierry, 2003. "The Empirics of Agglomeration and Trade," CEPR Discussion Papers 3985, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  19. Chad Syverson, 2004. "Market Structure and Productivity: A Concrete Example," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1181-1222, December.
  20. Jan De Loecker, 2011. "Product Differentiation, Multiproduct Firms, and Estimating the Impact of Trade Liberalization on Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(5), pages 1407-1451, 09.
  21. Christian Broda & Ephraim Leibtag & David E. Weinstein, 2009. "The Role of Prices in Measuring the Poor's Living Standards," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 77-97, Spring.
  22. M. Del Gatto & G. Mion & GIP. Ottaviano, 2007. "Trade Integration, Firm Selection and the Costs of Non-Europe," Working Paper CRENoS 200703, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
  23. Sveikauskas, Leo A, 1975. "The Productivity of Cities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 89(3), pages 393-413, August.
  24. Behrens, Kristian & Duranton, Gilles & Robert-Nicoud, Frédéric, 2010. "Productive cities: Sorting, selection and agglomeration," CEPR Discussion Papers 7922, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  25. Carrasco, Marine & Florens, Jean-Pierre, 2000. "Generalization Of Gmm To A Continuum Of Moment Conditions," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 16(06), pages 797-834, December.
  26. Roback, Jennifer, 1982. "Wages, Rents, and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1257-78, December.
  27. Olley, G Steven & Pakes, Ariel, 1996. "The Dynamics of Productivity in the Telecommunications Equipment Industry," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(6), pages 1263-97, November.
  28. Heckman, James J & Honore, Bo E, 1990. "The Empirical Content of the Roy Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(5), pages 1121-49, September.
  29. Simon Quantin & Xavier Boutin, 2008. "Une méthodologie d'évaluation comptable du coût du capital des entreprises françaises (1984-2002)," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 413(1), pages 47-64.
  30. Volker Nocke, 2006. "A Gap for Me: Entrepreneurs and Entry," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(5), pages 929-956, 09.
  31. Andrew B. Bernard & Jonathan Eaton & J. Bradford Jensen & Samuel Kortum, 2000. "Plants and Productivity in International Trade," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 105, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  32. Gilles Duranton & Diego Puga, 2000. "Nursery Cities: Urban diversity, process innovation, and the life-cycle of products," Working Papers dpuga-00-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  33. Melo, Patricia C. & Graham, Daniel J. & Noland, Robert B., 2009. "A meta-analysis of estimates of urban agglomeration economies," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 332-342, May.
  34. Nina Pavcnik, 2000. "Trade Liberalization, Exit, and Productivity Improvements: Evidence from Chilean Plants," NBER Working Papers 7852, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  35. J.V. Henderson, 1972. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," Working Papers 75, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  36. Del Gatto, Massimo & Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Pagnini, Marcello, 2007. "Openness to Trade and Industry Cost Dispersion: Evidence from a Panel of Italian Firms," CEPR Discussion Papers 6336, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  37. Robert E. Lucas & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2002. "On the Internal Structure of Cities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1445-1476, July.
  38. T. Chaney & D. Sraer & D. Thesmar, 2007. "Collateral Value and Corporate Investment: Evidence from the French Real Estate Market," Documents de Travail de la DESE - Working Papers of the DESE g2007-08, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques, DESE.
  39. Roger Betancourt & David Gautschi, 1996. "An international comparison of the determinants of retail gross margins," Empirica, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 173-189, June.
  40. Pierre-Philippe Combes & Gilles Duranton & Laurent Gobillon, 2008. "Spatial Wage Disparities: Sorting Matters!," Post-Print halshs-00754296, HAL.
  41. Mark Bils & Peter J. Klenow, 2001. "Quantifying Quality Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 1006-1030, September.
  42. James Levinsohn & Amil Petrin, 2003. "Estimating Production Functions Using Inputs to Control for Unobservables," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(2), pages 317-341.
  43. Berry, Steven & Waldfogel, Joel, 2005. "Product Quality and Market Size," Working Papers 1, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  44. Judith K. Hellerstein & David Neumark & Kenneth R. Troske, 1996. "Wages, Productivity, and Worker Characteristics: Evidence from Plant-Level Production Functions and Wage Equations," NBER Working Papers 5626, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  45. Sofronis K. Clerides & Saul Lach & James R. Tybout, 1998. "Is Learning By Exporting Important? Micro-Dynamic Evidence From Colombia, Mexico, And Morocco," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 903-947, August.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:imd:wpaper:wp2009-02. 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: (IMDEA RePEc Maintainer)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.