Chapter 53

The Evolution of City Size Distributions

Xavier Gabaix     MIT and NBER, USA. MIT and NBER. USA

Yannis M. Ioannides     Tufts University, USA. Tufts University. USA

JEL classification: C2, N9, R1


We review the accumulated knowledge on city size distributions and determinants of urban growth. This topic is of interest because of a number of key stylized facts, including notably Zipf’s law for cities (which states that the number of cities of size greater than S is proportional to 1/S) and the importance of urban primacy. We first review the empirical evidence on the upper tail of city size distribution. We offer a novel discussion of the important econometric issues in the characterization ...

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