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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

short run AC curves?
Jasmin Reply
what is short run AC curves?
what is short run curves?
what is short run curves?
nooo am not from India why!?
Godwin Reply
Godwin which level of education are you please
millionaires am in SHS 2
who was the father of economic ?why?
Mahesh Reply
who was the known as father of economic?why?
Rationing and hoarding
Semiat Reply
how do the size of a country's population affect labour force
Evans Reply
a mixed economic system
Ngong Reply
What are the types of price elasticity of demand
Juliana Reply
what are massures to promote geographical mobility of labor?
Is to make sure that a labourer to know more about his salary to earn before going to the direction
what is trade
Trade is a basic economic concept involving the buying and selling of goods and services, with compensation paid by a buyer to a seller, or the exchange of goods or services between parties. Trade can take place within an economy between producers and consumers.
what is fisical policy?
ha Reply
fisical policy or fiscal policy?
what are.the characteristics of economic goods
what are the importance of labour market?
how discrib the rural development and their four stages
Sheikh Reply
ye economics se related ha
1..traditional stage..no science and technology is applied hence poor productionuu.2..the take off stage..some development strategies are initiated eg transport system is improved but the traditional cultural belief still remain .3..the prematurely stage..technological methods of production are appl
applied leading to higher GDP..4..stage of mass consumption..
What is Easiest Formula For National Income?
Tenzin Reply
national income/ agrrigate net value
what do you mean by the supply of goods
sachin Reply
supply of good refer to the total unit of production which is ready to sell at a given price
what is implicit cost
fuseini Reply
any cost that has already occurred but not necessarily shown or reported as a separate expense.
The links don't seem to be working
Scorch Reply
what is taxonomy
wise Reply

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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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