Diverse cities or the systematic paradox of Urban Scaling Laws

Clémentine Cottineau, Erez Hatna, Elsa Arcaute, Michael Batty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Scaling laws are powerful summaries of the variations of urban attributes with city size. However, the validity of their universal meaning for cities is hampered by the observation that different scaling regimes can be encountered for the same territory, time and attribute, depending on the criteria used to delineate cities. The aim of this paper is to present new insights concerning this variation, coupled with a sensitivity analysis of urban scaling in France, for several socio-economic and infrastructural attributes from data collected exhaustively at the local level. The sensitivity analysis considers different aggregations of local units for which data are given by the Population Census. We produce a large variety of definitions of cities (approximatively 5000) by aggregating local Census units corresponding to the systematic combination of three definitional criteria: density, commuting flows and population cutoffs. We then measure the magnitude of scaling estimations and their sensitivity to city definitions for several urban indicators, showing for example that simple population cutoffs impact dramatically on the results obtained for a given system and attribute. Variations are interpreted with respect to the meaning of the attributes (socio-economic descriptors as well as infrastructure) and the urban definitions used (understood as the combination of the three criteria). Because of the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem (MAUP) and of the heterogeneous morphologies and social landscapes in the cities' internal space, scaling estimations are subject to large variations, distorting many of the conclusions on which generative models are based. We conclude that examining scaling variations might be an opportunity to understand better the inner composition of cities with regard to their size, i.e. to link the scales of the city-system with the system of cities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Oct 12 2015

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scaling
Law
census
sensitivity analysis
aggregation
economics
city
commuting
France
regime
infrastructure
attribute

Keywords

  • Cities
  • Size
  • Socioeconomic attributes
  • Urban delineation
  • Urban Scaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies

Cite this

Diverse cities or the systematic paradox of Urban Scaling Laws. / Cottineau, Clémentine; Hatna, Erez; Arcaute, Elsa; Batty, Michael.

In: Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 12.10.2015.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Cottineau, Clémentine ; Hatna, Erez ; Arcaute, Elsa ; Batty, Michael. / Diverse cities or the systematic paradox of Urban Scaling Laws. In: Computers, Environment and Urban Systems. 2015.
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