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optimum city size

  A city size below which the benefits of further growth outweigh the costs but above which costs exceed benefits. Some analysts believe that urbanization has seen the optimum city size exceeded in many cases but — as is often the situation where society\'s best interests and those of its members individually are not met by unregulated market operations (see tragedy of the commons) — no mechanism exists to restrain growth beyond the desirable level. (For example, an additional 10,000 people in a city of 1,000,000 may lead to a 10 per cent increase in traffic congestion but the extra individuals share the additional costs with those already there — which comes to only 0.01 per cent each.) Some argue that planning policies are needed to identify the optimum and ensure that it is not breached, but supporters of a free-market approach argue that when the optimum is reached then urbanization will halt — hence the counterurbanization recently experienced in several parts of the world and, perhaps, the reduced concern about the issue at the end of the twentieth century. (RJJ)

Suggested Reading Richardson, H.W. 1973: The economics of urban size. Farnborough: Saxon House. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.



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