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Agglomeration Economics$
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Edward L. Glaeser

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226297897

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226297927.001.0001

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Cities as Six-by-Six-Mile Squares

Cities as Six-by-Six-Mile Squares

Zipf's Law?

(p.105) 3 Cities as Six-by-Six-Mile Squares
Agglomeration Economics
Thomas J. Holmes, Sanghoon Lee
University of Chicago Press

A question in urban economics that has attracted much attention is the extent to which the size distribution of cities obeys Zipf's law. This chapter considers a new approach to looking at population distributions that sweeps out any decisions made by bureaucrats or politicians. When comparing populations of geographic units, differences fall along two margins. First, one unit can have a larger population than another because it encompasses a greater land area, holding population density fixed. Second, a unit can have a larger population on a fixed amount of land; that is, higher population density. The chapter analyzes size distribution by cutting the map of the continental United States into a uniform grid of six-by-six-mile squares, and examines the distribution of population across the squares and the extent to which Zipf's law holds for each. A joint analysis of the distribution of population of squares within and across metropolitan areas is a fruitful area for further research.

Keywords:   urban economics, size distribution, Zipf's law, six-by-six-mile, geographic units

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