Uneven Landscapes and City Size Distributions

Posted: 25 Nov 2013

See all articles by Sanghoon Lee

Sanghoon Lee

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Sauder School of Business

Qiang Li

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Real Estate

Date Written: November 1, 2013

Abstract

This paper proposes a new model generating city size distributions that asymptotically follow the lognormal distribution. The lognormal distribution is consistent with Zipf’s law in the top tail, which is known to hold for many countries in different periods. The key feature of our model is that it can express city size as a product of multiple random factors (e.g., climate, geographic features, and industry composition). Each factor alone need not generate Zipf’s law. Our model provides a justification for classical urban economics models that have been criticized for not delivering Zipf’s law, since a single model typically represents only one factor among many present in reality.

Keywords: City size distribution, Zipf's law, Rank-size rule, log-normal distribution

JEL Classification: D39, R12

Suggested Citation

Lee, Sanghoon and Li, Qiang, Uneven Landscapes and City Size Distributions (November 1, 2013). Journal of Urban Economics, Vol. 78, 2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2359305

Sanghoon Lee (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Sauder School of Business ( email )

2053 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2
Canada

Qiang Li

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Real Estate ( email )

4 Architecture Drive
Singapore 117566
Singapore

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