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How polycentric is a monocentric city?: centers, spillovers and hysteresis

Ahlfeldt, Gabriel M. ORCID: 0000-0001-5664-3230 and Wendland, Nicolai (2013) How polycentric is a monocentric city?: centers, spillovers and hysteresis. Journal of Economic Geography, 13 (1). pp. 53-83. ISSN 1468-2702

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Identification Number: 10.1093/jeg/lbs013


We assess the extent to which firms in an environment of decreasing transport costs and industrial transformation value the benefits of proximity to a historic CBD and agglomeration economies in their location decisions. Taking a hybrid perspective of classical bid-rent theory and a world where clustering of economic activity is driven by between-firm spillovers, Berlin, Germany, from 1890 to 1936 serves as a case in point. Our results suggest that the average productivity effect of a doubling of between- firm spillovers over the study period increases from 3.5% to 8.3%. As the city transforms into a service-based economy, several micro agglomerations emerge. Their locations close to the CBD still make the city look roughly monocentric. This is in line with a hysteresis effect in which second-nature geography drives the ongoing strength of a historic city center even though the importance of the originally relevant first-nature geography has vanished.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 The Authors
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Spatial Economics Research Centre
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
JEL classification: N - Economic History > N7 - Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, Technology, and Other Services
N - Economic History > N9 - Regional and Urban History
O - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth > O1 - Economic Development > O12 - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
R - Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics > R3 - Production Analysis and Firm Location > R33 - Nonagricultural and Nonresidential Real Estate Markets
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2012 12:36
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:00
Funders: German Science Foundation (DFG)

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