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Public service applications of the central place structure of western Guatemala


  • Vandenbroucke, David A.


This is an examination of the locational efficiency of the placement of public service facilities in a system of central places. The system studied is centered on the city of Quetzaltenango, in the western highlands of Guatemala. The study proceeds outward from that city, tracing links to other places until these are exhausted. The set of places thus identified are the members of the Quetzaltenango system;The essential principle used is that the rarity of facilities supplying central goods is directly related to those goods' central place levels. This principle is employed by using cluster analysis to sort the places into a hierarchical set of classes. Those places which supply only the most nearly ubiquitous goods are assigned to lower levels of the central place hierarchy. This hierarchy of places simultaneously defines the hierarchy of goods, since higher-level goods are only offered at higher-level places. A discriminant function is estimated which uses the hierarchy of goods to predict the hierarchy of places. Misclassified places are detected by this function, and marginal adjustments are made to the "rough cut" produced by the cluster analysis;After the structure is defined, market areas are approximated by drawing perpendicular bisecting lines between neighboring places of each central place level. Lower-level places are assigned to neighboring centers so as to minimize distances, taking into account the road network where possible. The different levels of markets are examined to determine their geographical extent and the size of the populations served. Differences among subregions are identified and explained;Finally, the geographical distribution of the educational and health facilities are examined and evaluated in a central place context. An attempt is made to assign each type of facility to a central place level. The tributary places are recorded and compared with the central place structure. Attempts are made to estimate the populations served and the efficiency of facility location;The most striking characteristic of the health and educational systems in the study region is their extreme scarcity. The number and size of existing facilities is too small for any gain in efficiency from locational changes to have much of an impact. However, the problems of inadequate health care and schooling are exacerbated by locational inefficiencies. Facility location and user travel are overly influenced by the political hierarchy of departamento and municipio capitals. More careful attention to the central place structure would increase accessibility.

Suggested Citation

  • Vandenbroucke, David A., 1990. "Public service applications of the central place structure of western Guatemala," ISU General Staff Papers 1990010108000010901, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:isu:genstf:1990010108000010901

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Edwin S. Mills & Michael R. Lav, 1964. "A Model of Market Areas with Free Entry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 72, pages 278-278.
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