October 18, 2017
CORE (room c.035)
On the Scaling of Urban Land and Population Density Profiles in Monocentric Models
Justin Delloye, CORE
Urban scaling laws with respect to total population have become a major field of research in urban studies, providing opportunities to develop parsimonious models of cross-sectional data. However, the scaling properties of the population density profiles resulting from the monocentric models of urban economics are still unclear, preventing empirical studies to anchor in a strong theoretical setting. This paper fixes this gap by introducing power laws in Alonso’s seminal monocentric model. Conditions are derived under which the resulting population density profile matches the empirical homothetic scaling of European cities recently uncovered by Lemoy and Caruso (2017). Afterwards, a functional form is chosen and calibrated on the European average profiles. Results show that the Alonso model is consistent with a three-dimensional homothetic scaling of the population density profile, what sheds a new light on the underlying economic process, and that it concludes to a scaling power of 1/3 that matches empirical evidence. Moreover, those results are compatible with a system-of-cities approach which formulates explicit hypotheses about urban agglomeration economies and costs. Finally, it provides an efficient description of the European average profile. However, those results require the housing land use profile to scale with the cubic root of the urban population, which strives against empirical evidence.