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Explaining the size distribution of cities: x-treme economies

  • Berliant, Marcus
  • Watanabe, Hiroki

The methodology used by theories to explain the size distribution of cities takes an empirical fact and works backward to first obtain a reduced form of a model, then pushes this reduced form back to assumptions on primitives. The induced assumptions on consumer behavior, particularly about their inability to insure against the city-level productivity shocks in the model, are untenable. With either self insurance or insurance markets, and either an arbitrarily small cost of moving or the assumption that consumers do not perfectly observe the shocks to firms' technologies, the agents will never move. Even without these frictions, our analysis yields another equilibrium with insurance where consumers never move. Thus, insurance is a substitute for movement. Even aggregate shocks are insufficent to generate consumer movement, since consumers can borrow and save. We propose an alternative class of models, involving extreme risk against which consumers will not insure. Instead, they will move.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 7587.

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Date of creation: 09 Mar 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:7587
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  1. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf's Law and the Growth of Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 129-132, May.
  2. Berliant, Marcus & Kung, Fan-chin, 2009. "Can information asymmetry cause agglomeration?," MPRA Paper 13085, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. repec:oup:restud:v:74:y:2007:i:2:p:597-624 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Jan Eeckhout, 2009. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1676-83, September.
  5. Esteban Rossi-Hansberg & Mark L. J. Wright, 2003. "Urban structure and growth," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 141, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  6. Kristian Behrens & Gilles Duranton & Fr�d�ric Robert-Nicoud, 2014. "Productive Cities: Sorting, Selection, and Agglomeration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(3), pages 507 - 553.
  7. Gilles Duranton, 2007. "Urban Evolutions: The Fast, the Slow, and the Still," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 197-221, March.
  8. Duranton, Gilles, 2006. "Some foundations for Zipf's law: Product proliferation and local spillovers," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 542-563, July.
  9. Xavier Gabaix & Yannis M. Ioannides, 2003. "The Evolution of City Size Distributions," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0310, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  10. Jan Eeckhout, 2004. "Gibrat's Law for (All) Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1429-1451, December.
  11. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf's Law for Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767.
  12. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
  13. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf's Law for Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767.
  14. M. Goldstein & S. Morris & G. Yen, 2004. "Problems with fitting to the power-law distribution," The European Physical Journal B - Condensed Matter and Complex Systems, Springer, vol. 41(2), pages 255-258, 09.
  15. Berliant, Marcus & Kung, Fan-chin, 2010. "Can Information Asymmetry Cause Stratification?," MPRA Paper 21395, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  16. Xavier Gabaix, 2005. "The Granular Origins of Aggregate Fluctuations," 2005 Meeting Papers 470, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  17. Fujita, Masahisa & Mori, Tomoya, 1997. "Structural stability and evolution of urban systems," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(4-5), pages 399-442, August.
  18. Starrett, David, 1978. "Market allocations of location choice in a model with free mobility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 21-37, February.
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