Locational Fundamentals, Trade, and the Changing Urban Landscape of Mexico

Jennifer Alix-Garcia (Oregon State University)
Emily A. Sellars (Texas A&M University)

Abstract: Where do cities emerge and evolve? We examine persistence and change in the distribution of Mexico's urban population from the colonial era to the present, with emphasis on the country's 20th-century transformation. We demonstrate that while early trade patterns and historical persistence were instrumental in sowing the seeds of Mexico's contemporary city system, both technological change and policy significantly altered the trajectory of urbanization. The relative importance of locational fundamentals decreases over time, while the influence of international trade access increases, highlighting that political and economic decision-making shape the importance of geography for development. The findings suggest that although geographic advantage plays an important role in initial city emergence, geography is not destiny in urbanization.

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