Central place theory is a key building block of economic geography and an empirically plausible description of city systems. This paper provides a rationale for central place theory via a dynamic programming formulation of the social planner's problem of city hierarchy. We show that there must be one and only one immediate smaller city between two neighboring larger-sized cities in any optimal solution. If the fixed cost of setting up a city is a power function, then the immediate smaller city will be located in the middle, confirming the locational pattern suggested by Christaller. We also show that the solution can be approximated by iterating the mapping defined by the dynamic programming problem. The main characterization results apply to a general hierarchical problem with recursive divisions.
Central place theory, City hierarchy, Dynamic programming, Principle of optimality, Fixed point
Economics | Economic Theory
Journal of Economic Theory
Hsu, Wen-Tai; HOLMES, Thomas J.; and MORGAN, Frank.
Optimal City Hierarchy: A Dynamic Programming Approach to Central Place Theory. (2014). Journal of Economic Theory. 154, 245-273. Research Collection School Of Economics.
Available at: http://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/soe_research/1642
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