The concentration of cities claims about Mongolia

by on April 19, 2017 at 12:17 am in Data Source, Economics, Political Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

From Lyman Stone:

…no matter the adjustment, the US is always one of the lowest-concentration countries, along with China, India, Brazil, Germany, and Japan. We have a very diversified metropolitan ecology, as do those countries.

Third, I’ve highlighted Nordic (purple) and Anglo (orange) countries. Notice that all of the Nordics are much more concentrated than the United States, as are all of the Anglo countries! That one was surprising to me, as I expected large countries like Australia and Canada to be much more comparable to the US. As it is, in terms of population concentration, Poland is more American than Canada.

…my most concentrated countries are indeed Mongolia and Peru. Not kidding here. Both results surprised me given that both countries are fairly large and have big rural populations and, in Peru’s case, my impression was that there were a good number of meaningfully sized cities. But it turns out that, in Peru, Lima metro area alone is almost 30% of the population, and then the other cities are pretty small by comparison; and Lima is, of course, also the capital. In Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar metro area is over half of the nation’s population!

So. If you want to know what country is the most city-state-ish, I would have to answer… it’s Mongolia.

Here is the full essay, noting that Singapore is normalized as a polar option at 100% and thus cannot win the competition.  Also scroll down to the interesting graph on “State and Local Taxes Collected as a Share of GDP”: I am surprised to see Sweden come in at number one.  For all the talk of American federalism, we are just at the OECD average and in fact slightly behind Iceland in these rankings.

1 Thiago Ribeiro April 19, 2017 at 5:24 am

“no matter the adjustment, the US is always one of the lowest-concentration countries, along with China, India, Brazil, Germany, and Japan. We have a very diversified metropolitan ecology, as do those countries.”

Suffices to say: if all world population were brought to Brazil, the country’s population density would be less than a tenth of New York City’s. This – and moral superiority – goes a lobg way to explain why Brazil nrever sought territorial aggrandizement or fought wars of agression as all other important countries did: we have already plenty of space and natural resources.


2 Art Deco April 19, 2017 at 6:11 am

Not other. Brazil does not rank among the important countries.


3 Thiago Ribeiro April 19, 2017 at 6:38 am

Yes, it does. It is bigger than the Roman Empire at its height. It is one of the biggest economies mankind has ever seen. It is the greatest meat exporter of all time. Mr. Acheson praided Brazil’s war effort against the Nazi beast. Brazil invented the typewriter, the airplane and the radio and discovered the pion and the Urca Effect.


4 Art Deco April 19, 2017 at 7:26 am

None of those things is true, although perhaps Brazil did invent the coconut telephone tied together by a string. Brazil is a largish economy of no import.


5 Thiago Ribeiro April 19, 2017 at 7:54 am

Not “largish”, giant (“Giant by thine own nature,
Thou art beautiful, thou art strong, a fearless colossus,
And thy future mirrors that greatness”, says our anthem). Brazil invented no coconut telephone, but invented a special kind of pay phone. And, yes, Brazil is the biggest meat exporter of the world, invented the airplane (as opposed to people who refused to allow people to see the “invention” they were trying to sell), the typewriter and the radio (decades before Marconi) and discovered the Urca effect and the pion.

6 Art Deco April 19, 2017 at 8:27 am

For most of the 20th Century the Brazilian economy lagged behind even Argentina’s. Largish but of no importance and certainly a country that cannot even be considered a regional leader in South America. A lesser realm.

7 Thiago Ribeiro April 19, 2017 at 9:24 am

I am not been allowed to reply, yet I will not stand silenced.

8 Thiago Ribeiro April 19, 2017 at 9:55 am

In the 40s, while Americans were shamefully shipping Jews to Occupied Europe’s ovens, Brazil was protecting them – one of those refugees, imlressed by Brazil generosity, called it the land of the future. In the early 50s, communist leader Molotov speak ill of Brazil, but Mr. Acheson, one of the most distinguished American leaders, reminded him that Brazil had actually been a key ally in the fight against Hitler. In the 1960s, President Johnson praised Brazilian President Costa e Silva. In the 1970s, Mr. Kissinger remarked as Brazil goes, so goes South America.

9 anon April 19, 2017 at 8:45 pm

Speaking of mass death, how many people have been murdered in Brazil in total over the last 30 years or so? A million?

10 Melmoth April 19, 2017 at 6:15 am

Mongolia, Australia and Canada all have small populations and the majority of their land area made up of harsh, uninhabitable or barely habitable land.
” I expected large countries like Australia and Canada to be much more comparable to the US.” Why would you think that?


11 jlh April 19, 2017 at 7:27 am

Yeah, there seems to be an unstated presumption that countries are geographically homogeneous. Or perhaps is it a cultural impression that the relatively sparsely populated regions of the USA must be as harsh as the sparsely populated regions of Canada or Mongolia… and so it seems strange that those peoples have huddled together more?


12 rayward April 19, 2017 at 7:31 am

Climate and geography play a big part in the concentration of population. Peru is mostly rain forest, and the Nordic countries and Canada are cold in the northern areas, which are also far from their trading partners to the south. Of course, the greatest concentration of population can be explained by water (i.e., transportation and trade). I know why NYC is in NYC, Miami is in Miami, Chicago is in Chicago, and LA is in LA, but can someone explain to me why Atlanta is in Atlanta.


13 Slocum April 19, 2017 at 8:42 am

“can someone explain to me why Atlanta is in Atlanta”

Railroads. The same goes for Denver, Phoenix, and Indianapolis.


14 rayward April 19, 2017 at 2:25 pm

Is Atlanta in Atlanta because there were railroads already there so folks decided to build a city?


15 Cooper April 19, 2017 at 5:02 pm

Sometimes it’s just an accident of history.

“The history of Atlanta dates back to 1836, when Georgia decided to build a railroad to the U.S. Midwest and a location was chosen to be the line’s terminus.”

They literally just picked a spot to end their railroad line and that spot was Atlanta.


16 sort_of_knowledgable April 19, 2017 at 11:26 pm

Well the spot is close to Decatur. It had to be a place on a good railroad route from Chattanooga to Savannah or Augusta, which leaves a lot of possibilities, but still rules out most of Georgia.

17 The Other Jim April 19, 2017 at 8:04 am

>For all the talk of American federalism….

Which you apparently missed out on completely, being inside your DC bubble.

The only talk of American federalism is that it has vanished. To our great detriment.


18 Lyman Stone April 19, 2017 at 10:06 am

Hey man, I agree.


19 Ray Lopez April 19, 2017 at 8:49 am

I think Lyman’s “30% rule” is universal, not the exception limited to Peru or Mongolia’s biggest city: “But it turns out that, in Peru, Lima metro area alone is almost 30% of the population”

I once calculated that every country in the world obeys the “Capital Effect” (a term of art introduced by the Cato Institute, showing that with the rise of Big Government worldwide, rent seekers migrate to the capital). That is, 30% of the population is found in and around a radius of XYZ miles from the capital.

For the USA, the radius XYZ is a bit larger than others, but it’s there. For the US, it might be the NE corridor of NY-NJ-DC. For the Philippines, the radius is tightly centered around Manila, their capital. Same for South Korea (Seoul), same for China (Beijing area), same for Greece (Athens).

So Lyman is wrong. I would say the only country I know of that does not obey the “Capital Rule” might be Australia, off the top of my head. Turkey might obey it if you consider Istanbul as the ‘de facto’ capital. I’m pretty sure England and France obey the capital rule, as would Germany (Berlin), and certainly Japan (Tokyo).


20 Jim April 19, 2017 at 9:43 am

As I understand it, Canberra became the capital of Australia effectively due to the “Capital Effect”. When the Commonwealth was founded, both Sydney and Melbourne (recognizing the commercial value of those rent seekers) wanted to be the capital. Canberra was founded as a compromise.

Wasn’t Brasilia a similar situation? And I think Abuja, Nigeria was made the capital to take the power away from the commercial hub of Lagos.


21 Thiago Ribeiro April 19, 2017 at 9:51 am

No, Brasília was built to make realthe decision of the framers of the constitution to move the capital to the geographical center of the country. Also, it was a device to develop a somewhat underexplored region. For all the previous republican history and all the Empire of Brazil history, Rio de Janeiro (called Distrito Federal or Município Neutro) was the unrivaled capital and cultural center. Before that, Salvador had been a capital under the Portuguese Regime.


22 Lyman Stone April 19, 2017 at 10:07 am

True, you can in theory draw a circle around the capital at some scale to capture 30% of the population. But no, that circle’s size does not have any meaningful correspondence globally. It’s an arbitrary construction without meaning.


23 Tim Worstall April 19, 2017 at 9:23 am

” Also scroll down to the interesting graph on “State and Local Taxes Collected as a Share of GDP”: I am surprised to see Sweden come in at number one.”

Denmark and Finland do the same. And I’ve long argued that they do is why they work. The heavy burden of taxation is at municipality, county or commune level. Denmark’s national income tax is 3.76% for example (yes, 3.76, ). You pay the government through the nose. you certainly do, and you also get a lot of government services. But you also know that it’s money raised locally and spent locally. You may well in fact know the people doing the spending of the money. I suggest that people are happier with that happening than with he same level of taxation but it all flowing off 1,500 miles to then be doled out again.

From which I draw two lessons. 1), that the EU common fiscal policy and Treasury just will never work and thus nor will the euro. We’re just not going to be happy sending 15% of our incomes off to Brussels to be apportioned over Europe. 2) That American liberals are going about this the wrong way. They keep insisting that they’d like more social democracy – fine, as you wish. But I don’t think you’ll be able to get it through DC. It’s just too far away and too remote for people s#to send enough tax there. You’d do better by trying to make it perhaps the counties doing the taxing and spending. As actually is done in the Nordic social democracies the liberals claim to want to be like.


24 required April 21, 2017 at 3:00 pm

It cost money to transport that money, even if transporting it electronically.


25 Anonymous April 19, 2017 at 10:28 am

Lyman has a lot of interesting ideas, and maybe I unfairly see them as a defense of this, as the best of possible worlds.

If we are going to do new trials of US policy, certainly things tried at other scales, and even other concentrations, would be a good place to start.


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