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Do rent-seeking and interregional transfers contribute to urban primacy in sub-Saharan Africa?

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  • Kristian Behrens
  • Alain Pholo Bala

Abstract

We develop an economic geography model where mobile skilled workers choose to either work in a production sector or to become part of an unproductive elite. The elite sets income tax rates to maximize its own welfare by extracting rents, thereby influencing the spatial structure of the economy and changing the available range of consumption goods. We show that either unskilled labor mobility, or rent-seeking behavior, or both, are likely to favor the occurence of agglomeration and of urban primacy. In equilibrium, the elite may tax the unskilled workers but does not tax the skilled workers, and there are rural-urban transfers towards the agglomeration. The size of the elite and the magnitude of the tax burden that falls on the unskilled decrease with product differentiation and with the expenditure share for manufacturing goods. All these results are broadly in line with observed patterns of urban primacy and economic development in sub-Saharan African countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Kristian Behrens & Alain Pholo Bala, 2011. "Do rent-seeking and interregional transfers contribute to urban primacy in sub-Saharan Africa?," Working Papers 237, Economic Research Southern Africa.
  • Handle: RePEc:rza:wpaper:237
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    Cited by:

    1. Castells-Quintana, David, 2017. "Malthus living in a slum: Urban concentration, infrastructure and economic growth," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 158-173.
    2. De Weerdt,Joachim & Christiaensen,Luc & Kanbur,Ravi, 2021. "When Distance Drives Destination, Towns Can Stimulate Development," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9622, The World Bank.
    3. Luc Christiaensen & Joachim Weerdt & Yasuyuki Todo, 2013. "Urbanization and poverty reduction: the role of rural diversification and secondary towns," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 44(4-5), pages 435-447, July.
    4. Frick, Susanne A. & Rodríguez-Pose, Andrés, 2018. "Change in urban concentration and economic growth," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 156-170.
    5. Christiaensen, Luc & Todo, Yasuyuki, 2014. "Poverty Reduction During the Rural–Urban Transformation – The Role of the Missing Middle," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 43-58.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    economic geography; rent-seeking; interregional transfers; urban primacy; Sub-Saharan Africa.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • 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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