Comparing City Size Distributions: Gridded Population vs. Nighttime Lights

55 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2021 Last revised: 1 Nov 2023

See all articles by Miguel Puente-Ajovin

Miguel Puente-Ajovin

Independent; University of Zaragoza

Marcos Sanso-Navarro

Universidad de Zaragoza

María Vera-Cabello

Centro Universitario de la Defensa de Zaragoza

Date Written: October 31, 2023

Abstract

This paper compares the size distributions of cities when they are measured using gridded population and nighttime lights data. To do so, we exploit recent and accurate satellite imagery to proxy urban economic activity. Similarly to related studies, our results suggest that population is more equally distributed than lights at the country level. However, and calling assumptions established for urban nighttime lights into question, our findings do not support a Pareto function for their distribution. We also obtain evidence of a nonlinear and heterogeneous link between population and lights for a global sample of cities. Grounded on our empirical analysis, we develop a simple theoretical framework that relates the difference between the distributions of population and light emissions to the strength of agglomeration economies.

Keywords: City size distribution, Gridded population, Nighttime lights, Nonparametric methods, Urban scaling

JEL Classification: O10, O18, O57, R12

Suggested Citation

Puente-Ajovin, Miguel and Puente-Ajovin, Miguel and Sanso-Navarro, Marcos and Vera-Cabello, María, Comparing City Size Distributions: Gridded Population vs. Nighttime Lights (October 31, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3933838 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3933838

Miguel Puente-Ajovin

Independent ( email )

University of Zaragoza ( email )

50005 Zaragoza
Spain

HOME PAGE: http://mpajovin.github.io

Marcos Sanso-Navarro (Contact Author)

Universidad de Zaragoza ( email )

Facultad de Economía y Empresa
Departamento de Análisis Económico
Zaragoza, 50005
Spain
+34 876 554 629 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://personal.unizar.es/marcossn

María Vera-Cabello

Centro Universitario de la Defensa de Zaragoza ( email )

Academia General Militar, Ctra. de Huesca, s/n
Zaragoza, Zaragoza 50009
Spain

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