How Should We Measure City Size? Theory and Evidence within and Across Rich and Poor Countries
56 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2019
Date Written: September 2019
It is obvious that holding city population constant, differences in cities across the world areenormous. Urban giants in poor countries are not large using measures such as land area,interior space or value of output. These differences are easily reconciled mathematically aspopulation is the product of land area, structure space per unit land (i.e., heights), andpopulation per unit interior space (i.e., crowding). The first two are far larger in the cities ofdeveloped countries while the latter is larger for the cities of developing countries. In order tostudy sources of diversity among cities with similar population, we construct a version of thestandard urban model (SUM) that yields the prediction that the elasticity of city size withrespect to income could be similar within both developing countries and developed countries.However, differences in income and urban technology can explain the physical differencesbetween the cities of developed countries and developing countries. Second, using a varietyof newly merged data sets, the predictions of the SUM for similarities and differences ofcities in developed and developing countries are tested. The findings suggest that populationis a sufficient statistic to characterize city differences among cities within the same country,not across countries.
Keywords: Cost of living, Migrations, Economic growth, National income, Low income countries, Urbanization, Cities, Urban Giants, Population, Standard Urban Model, Measurement, Urban Technology, Building Heights, Sprawl, Housing, Transportation, WP, city size, night lights, country city
JEL Classification: R13, R14, R31, R41, R42, O18, O2, O33, E01, E2, J3
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation