The size distribution of employment centers within the US Metropolitan Areas

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This study tackles the description of the size distribution of urban employment centers or, in other words, the size of areas within cities with significantly high densities of workers. Certainly, there exists a branch of urban economics that has paid substantial attention to urban employment centers, but the efforts have been focused on identification methodologies. In this paper we build on such body of research and combine it with insights from the latest contributions in the sister subfield of city size distributions to push the agenda forward in terms of the understanding of these phenomena. We consider the 359 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the United States in the year 2000 and reach three main conclusions: First, employment center sizes are more unevenly distributed than city sizes; second, the two functions that best describe city size distributions, namely the lognormal and the double Pareto-lognormal, also offer a good fit for the case of centers, particularly the latter; and third, several interesting statistically significant relationships (correlations) between variables related to centers and MSAs are deduced. Further experiments with a different technique of center identification suggest that the results are fairly robust to the method of choice.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-39
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Planning B: Planning and Design
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015