Towns (and Villages); Definitions and Implications in a Historical Setting

Apr 2019 |

Authors: Florian Ploeckl

Urbanization has been extensively used as a proxy for economic activity.  The urban status of settlements is usually determined by an ad hoc population size household.  This paper proposes a new threshold, taking into account the effect of local agricultural endowments.  The new population threshold is a population size, such that for smaller settlements these endowments influence their size, while for larger they do not.  This results in an endogeneous, data based threshold.  The idea is practically shown for Saxony in the 19th century.  The relevance of a different classification is demonstrated in four particular examples, the development of urbanization over time, Gibrat's law, the impact of geography on town locations and the spatial relationship between towns and villages.  The resulst demonstrate that the underlying classification scheme matters for the conclusions drawn from urban data.

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