Urban Development in the United States, 1690-1990
The United States transformed itself from a rural to an urban society over the last three centuries. After a century of unremarkable growth, the pace of urbanization was historically unprecedented between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the twentieth century, the urban population continued to increase but in a much more dispersed manner as the suburban population increased. Throughout these developments, cities also exhibited considerable variation in their population sizes. This paper find that the pace and pattern of U.S. urban development are explained by changes in regional comparative advantage and in economies in transportation and local public goods, which in turn were determined by the changes in the economic structures of cities. This paper also finds that cities varied considerably in size because the larger cities reduced market transaction costs associated with coordinating greater geographic division of labor.