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Long term evolution of the size distribution of Portuguese cities


  • Ana Paula Delgado

    () (CEDRES, Faculdade de Economia do Porto, Universidade do Porto)

  • Isabel Maria Godinho

    () (CEDRES, Faculdade de Economia do Porto, Universidade do Porto)


In this paper we study the evolution of the Portuguese urban system from 1864 to 2001. We apply the rank-size model and use rank-size estimates to describe the evolution of city-size hierarchy. NonParetian behavior of the distribution is examined by adding a quadratic term to the basic equation of the model. Our results enhance two different processes in the evolution of urban system: until the middle of the twentieth century urban growth was accompanied by population concentration in the largest cities; afterwards growth benefits middle size cities, reinforced in the last decades by heavy population losses in the two largest cities. From the association between the characteristics and evolving pattern of city size distribution and the spatial pattern of urban growth, it appears that the nonParetian behavior of city size distribution in the last decades can be linked to the particular growth process of cities located in the proximity of the central cities of the two metropolitan areas of mainland Portugal. In order to obtain a better understanding of the dynamics of the Portuguese urban system we examine the movements in the ranking of cities, through a Markov chain process. We also analyse the existence of spatial correlation in the process of urban hierarchy restructuring.

Suggested Citation

  • Ana Paula Delgado & Isabel Maria Godinho, 2006. "Long term evolution of the size distribution of Portuguese cities," FEP Working Papers 230, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.
  • Handle: RePEc:por:fepwps:230

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    Cited by:

    1. Valente J. Matlaba & Mark J. Holmes & Philip McCann & Jacques Poot, 2013. "A Century Of The Evolution Of The Urban System In Brazil," Review of Urban & Regional Development Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(3), pages 129-151, November.

    More about this item


    Urban hierarchy; rank-size distribution; urban growth; Markov processes;

    JEL classification:

    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)

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