A Century of Shocks: The Evolution of the German City Size Distribution 1925-1999

35 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2006

See all articles by Erik Maarten Bosker

Erik Maarten Bosker

University of Groningen; Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Department of Economics

Steven Brakman

University of Groningen - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Harry Garretsen

Utrecht University - School of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Radboud University Nijmegen - Department of Economics

Marc Schramm

Utrecht University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: May 2006

Abstract

The empirical literature on city size distributions has mainly focused on the USA. The first major contribution of this paper is to provide empirical evidence on the evolution and structure of the West-German city size distribution. Using a unique annual data set that covers most of the 20th century for 62 of West-Germany's largest cities, we look at the evolution of both the city size distribution as a whole and each city separately. The West-German case is of particular interest as it has undergone major shocks, most notably WWII. Our data set allows us to identify these shocks and provide evidence on the effects of these 'quasi-natural experiments' on the city size distribution. The second major contribution of this paper is that we perform unit-root tests on individual German city sizes using a substantial number of observations to analyze the evolution of the individual cities that make up the German city size distribution. Our main findings are twofold. First, WWII has had a major and lasting impact on the city size distribution. Second, the overall city size distribution does not adhere to Zipf's Law. This second finding is largely based on the results of unit root tests for individual cities to test for Gibrat's Law, the latter being a requirement for Zipf's Law to hold for the overall city-size distribution. Together these two findings are consistent with theories emphasizing increasing returns to scale in city growth.

JEL Classification: R12, O18

Suggested Citation

Bosker, Erik Maarten and Brakman, Steven and Garretsen, Harry and Schramm, Marc, A Century of Shocks: The Evolution of the German City Size Distribution 1925-1999 (May 2006). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 1728. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=908501

Erik Maarten Bosker (Contact Author)

University of Groningen ( email )

P.O. Box 800
9700 AH Groningen, Groningen 9700 AV
Netherlands

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam
Netherlands

Steven Brakman

University of Groningen - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 800
9700 AV Groningen
Netherlands
+31 50 363 3746 (Phone)
+31 50 363 3730 (Fax)

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Harry Garretsen

Utrecht University - School of Economics ( email )

Kriekenpitplein 21-22
Adam Smith Building
Utrecht, 3584 EC
Netherlands
+31 0 30 253 9810 (Phone)

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.cesifo.de

Radboud University Nijmegen - Department of Economics ( email )

Nijmegen, 6500 HK
Netherlands
+31 24 361 5889 (Phone)
+31 24 361 1846 (Fax)

Marc Schramm

Utrecht University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Janskerkhof 3
Utrecht, 3512 BK
Netherlands

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