This chapter begins by framing an economic model of the urbanization process. This conceptual framework, referred to as “the new economic geography,” aims to identify the determinants of when cities will coalesce and of the size distribution of urban places in a country or region. The conditions identified by the model as being conducive to the formation of cities include declining transportation costs, rising demand for goods produced under increasing returns to scale, and a preference for variety in the commodities and services households buy. The second part of the chapter shows that these conditions came into much greater effect in the United States during the years between 1815 and about 1850 than they had been before. The chapter concludes with a theoretical consideration of where on the map urbanization is likely to take place.
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