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How can cities be viewed as examples of economies of scale?

Why are people and economic activity concentrated in cities, rather than distributed evenly across a country? The fundamental reason must be related to the idea of economies of scale—that grouping economic activity is more productive in many cases than spreading it out. For example, cities provide a large group of nearby customers, so that businesses can produce at an efficient economy of scale. They also provide a large group of workers and suppliers, so that business can hire easily and purchase whatever specialized inputs they need. Many of the attractions of cities, like sports stadiums and museums, can operate only if they can draw on a large nearby population base. Cities are big enough to offer a wide variety of products, which is what many shoppers are looking for.

These factors are not exactly economies of scale in the narrow sense of the production function of a single firm, but they are related to growth in the overall size of population and market in an area. Cities are sometimes called “agglomeration economies.”

These agglomeration factors help to explain why every economy, as it develops, has an increasing proportion of its population living in urban areas. In the United States, about 80% of the population now lives in metropolitan areas (which include the suburbs around cities), compared to just 40% in 1900. However, in poorer nations of the world, including much of Africa, the proportion of the population in urban areas is only about 30%. One of the great challenges for these countries as their economies grow will be to manage the growth of the great cities that will arise.

If cities offer economic advantages that are a form of economies of scale, then why don’t all or most people live in one giant city? At some point, agglomeration economies must turn into diseconomies. For example, traffic congestion may reach a point where the gains from being geographically nearby are counterbalanced by how long it takes to travel. High densities of people, cars, and factories can mean more garbage and air and water pollution. Facilities like parks or museums may become overcrowded. There may be economies of scale for negative activities like crime, because high densities of people and businesses, combined with the greater impersonality of cities, make it easier for illegal activities as well as legal ones. The future of cities, both in the United States and in other countries around the world, will be determined by their ability to benefit from the economies of agglomeration and to minimize or counterbalance the corresponding diseconomies.

A more common case is illustrated in [link] (b), where the LRAC curve has a flat-bottomed area of constant returns to scale. In this situation, any firm with a level of output between 5,000 and 20,000 will be able to produce at about the same level of average cost. Given that the market will demand one million dishwashers per year at a price of $500, this market might have as many as 200 producers (that is, one million dishwashers divided by firms making 5,000 each) or as few as 50 producers (one million dishwashers divided by firms making 20,000 each). The producers in this market will range in size from firms that make 5,000 units to firms that make 20,000 units. But firms that produce below 5,000 units or more than 20,000 will be unable to compete, because their average costs will be too high. Thus, if we see an industry where almost all plants are the same size, it is likely that the long-run average cost curve has a unique bottom point as in [link] (a). However, if the long-run average cost curve has a wide flat bottom like [link] (b), then firms of a variety of different sizes will be able to compete with each other.

Questions & Answers

why is degree important in economics
Ebunoluwa Reply
important of enocomic
Adu Reply
what is division of labour
Dennis Reply
division of labour can be defined as the separation of task to individuals in any economic system to specialize on it.
Ahmad
what is demand curve
Victoria Reply
demand curve is a downward sloping economic graph that shows the relationship between the price of product and the quantity of the product demanded.
Ahmad
What is demand
Frank Reply
It refers to the quantity of a commodity purchased in the market at a price and at a point of time.
Basanta
refers to amount of commodities a consumer is willing and able to buy at particular price within a period of time
Clifford
It is the ability and willingness a customer buys a product or service at a particular price, place and time while other things remaining constant or the same
kum
In which case is opportunity cost is zero
Francis Reply
where no alternative is available
Bhartendu
who is the father of economic
Omar Reply
Adam Smith
Suraj
ok
Tony
Adam Smith
Francis
Adam smith
Opana
Adam Smith
Basanta
What is monopoly
Mauthoor Reply
it an economic situation where one individual controls the essential commodities or value product for maximum profit
James
monopoly is a market situation in which there is only one producer of a good or service which has no close substitutes
eliano
is where only one person is solely the price taker
Francis
what is Monopoly
Dauda Reply
The word Monopoly is a Latin word. it is the combination of two words-Mono means single and Poly means seller. thus Monopoly means single seller. but this is not the full meaning of Monopoly. Monopoly must produce a product which does not have close substitute in the market.
Basanta
Monopoly is define as a firm in an industry with very high barriers to entry.
Favour
If close substitute is available, Monopoly will be a king without a crown.
Basanta
what does it array
Cbdishakur Reply
what are the differences between monopoly and.oligopoly
Onome Reply
what are the difference between monopoly and oligopoly
Cbdishakur
The deference between Monopoly and Oligopoly: Monopoly means:A single-firm-Industry producing and selling a product having no close business and Oligopoly means:A market structure where a few sellers compete with each other and each controls a significant portion of market .
Basanta
so that the price-output policy one affects the other.
Basanta
what are difference between physical policy and monotory policy
hon
what is economic
Emakpor Reply
what is economic
Cbdishakur
the word economic was derived from the Greek word oikos (a house)and mein(to manage) which in effect meant managing a household with the limited funds available 🙂.
Basanta
good excample about scarsity
hon
An Enquiry into the nature and causes of wealth Nations, this book clearly defined what economic is🙂🙂🙏🙏 thank you...
Basanta
good example about scarcity: money,time, energy, human or natural resources. Scarcity of resources implies that there supply is very much limited in relation to demand.
Basanta
equilibrium is a situation in which economic forces such as demand and supply are balanced and in the absence of external influences,the value of economic variables will not change
Onome Reply
hmnn
Emakpor
marginal cost and marginal revenue is equilibrium .
Kho
yessss
Basanta
what is equilibrium
Rodrice Reply
policy prescriptions for unemployment
Jeslyne Reply
Am working on it
Blacks
Study
Janelle
study
simeon

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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