Explaining Zipf's Law for US Cities

40 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2009 Last revised: 2 Dec 2010

See all articles by Spyros Skouras

Spyros Skouras

Athens University of Economics and Business - Department of International and European Economic Studies

Date Written: December 1, 2009

Abstract

I develop an explanation of Zipf's law that is consistent with the observed marked heterogeneity in the growth of US cities. The explanation is that heterogeneous growth results in heterogeneous size distributions across cities, with the heaviest tailed distributions being Zipf and dominating the cross-sectional mixture distribution's tail. I demonstrate in the context of a popular model that this explanation is consistent with observed growth heterogeneity and other key stylized facts about city size and growth. This explanation has significant policy implications for controlling size distributions and the size of the largest cities in a country.

Keywords: Zipf's law, regulated geometric brownian motion, Gibrat's law

JEL Classification: R11, R12, R15

Suggested Citation

Skouras, Spyros, Explaining Zipf's Law for US Cities (December 1, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1527497 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1527497

Spyros Skouras (Contact Author)

Athens University of Economics and Business - Department of International and European Economic Studies ( email )

GR-10434 Athens
Greece

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