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The Size Distribution Across All "Cities": A Unifying Approach

  • Giesen, Kristian


    (University of Duisburg-Essen)

  • Suedekum, Jens


    (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)

In this paper we show that the double Pareto lognormal (DPLN) parameterization provides an excellent fit to the overall US city size distribution, regardless of whether "cities" are administratively defined Census places or economically defined area clusters. We then consider an economic model that combines scale-independent urban growth (Gibrat's law) with endogenous city creation. City sizes converge to a DPLN distribution in this model, which is much better in line with the data than previous urban growth frameworks that predict a lognormal or a Pareto city size distribution (Zipf's law).

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 6352.

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Length: 16 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6352
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  1. Mark Wright & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2004. "Urban Structure and Growth," 2004 Meeting Papers 33, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. Cuberes, David, 2008. "A Model of Sequential City Growth," MPRA Paper 8431, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Nitsch, Volker, 2005. "Zipf zipped," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 86-100, January.
  4. Reed, William J., 2003. "The Pareto law of incomes—an explanation and an extension," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 319(C), pages 469-486.
  5. Giesen, Kristian & Zimmermann, Arndt & Suedekum, Jens, 2010. "The size distribution across all cities - Double Pareto lognormal strikes," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 129-137, September.
  6. Moshe Levy, 2009. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1672-75, September.
  7. William J. Reed, 2002. "On the Rank-Size Distribution for Human Settlements," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(1), pages 1-17.
  8. Rafael González-Val & Arturo Ramos & Fernando Sanz-Gracia & María Vera-Cabello, 2015. "Size distributions for all cities: Which one is best?," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 94(1), pages 177-196, 03.
  9. Linda Harris Dobkins & Yannis M. Ioannides, 1999. "Spatial Interactions Among U.S. Cities: 1900-1990," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 9913, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
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  14. María Sánchez-Vidal & Rafael González-Val & Elisabet Viladecans-Marsal, 2013. "Sequential city growth in the US: does age matter?," Working Papers 2013/1, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  15. Jan Eeckhout, 2009. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1676-83, September.
  16. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf's Law for Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767.
  17. Henderson, J V, 1974. "The Sizes and Types of Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(4), pages 640-56, September.
  18. Ioannides, Yannis & Skouras, Spyros, 2013. "US city size distribution: Robustly Pareto, but only in the tail," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 18-29.
  19. Jan Eeckhout, 2004. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1429-1451, December.
  20. Wen‐Tai Hsu, 2012. "Central Place Theory and City Size Distribution," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(563), pages 903-932, 09.
  21. Vernon Henderson & Anthony Venables, 2009. "Dynamics of city formation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(2), pages 233-254, April.
  22. Yannis M. Ioannides & Spyros Skouras, 2009. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities: A Rejoinder," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0740, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
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