What Is The Rank Size Rule?

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The Rank-Size Rule, a concept in urban geography, offers a fascinating perspective on the distribution of population and the hierarchy of cities within a country or region. By examining the relationships between cities and their populations, this rule provides valuable insights into the structure and development of urban areas. In this blog, we will explore what the Rank-Size Rule is, its implications, and its applications in the field of urban geography.

What Is The Rank Size Rule?

The Rank-Size Rule is a statistical principle that describes the distribution of city sizes within a country or region. It posits that, when cities are ranked in order of population from largest to smallest, the second-largest city will have approximately half the population of the largest city, the third-largest city will have approximately one-third of the population, and so on. In other words, the population of a city is inversely proportional to its rank.

Key Elements Of The Rank-Size Rule

  1. City Ranking: Cities are arranged in a hierarchy based on their population size, with the largest city at the top and successively smaller cities following in descending order.
  2. Predictable Relationship: The rule suggests that the population of cities follows a predictable and systematic pattern, making it possible to estimate the population of any city in the hierarchy.
  3. Inverse Proportion: The rule implies that the population of a city is inversely proportional to its rank. As the rank increases, the population decreases proportionally.

Implications Of The Rank-Size Rule

  1. Urban Hierarchy: The Rank-Size Rule highlights the hierarchical structure of urban areas, with a dominant primate city at the top and a series of smaller cities following in a decreasing order of importance.
  2. Economic Opportunities: Larger cities, according to the rule, tend to offer more economic opportunities, drawing people in search of employment, education, and services.
  3. Resource Allocation: Policymakers and urban planners can use the Rank-Size Rule to allocate resources efficiently, focusing on the most significant cities in a region.
  4. Development Patterns: Understanding the distribution of population can shed light on the development patterns of a country or region, including issues related to urbanization, infrastructure, and access to services.

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Applications Of The Rank-Size Rule

  1. Comparative Studies: Urban geographers use the Rank-Size Rule to compare and analyze urban systems across different countries, regions, and time periods. This helps in understanding variations in development and city hierarchies.
  2. Urban Planning: City planners can apply the principles of the Rank-Size Rule to make informed decisions about infrastructure development, resource allocation, and regional planning.
  3. Economic Analysis: Economists use the rule to assess the potential for growth and economic development in various cities, guiding investment decisions and policy formulation.
  4. Historical Analysis: Historians often employ the Rank-Size Rule to examine the historical growth and decline of cities, providing insights into urban evolution.


The Rank-Size Rule is a valuable concept in urban geography that sheds light on the hierarchical distribution of population in cities. By understanding the relationships between city sizes and their ranks, researchers, policymakers, and planners can gain valuable insights into the development, structure, and dynamics of urban areas. This rule has applications in various fields, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of urban systems and the factors that shape them.


What Is The Rank-Size Rule With Example?

The specific formula for the rank size rule is 1/nth, where n equals the ranking of the size of the city in the country. For example, Los Angeles, California is the second largest city in the United States. Therefore, its ranking would be two, and in the rank-size formula, n would equal two.

What Is The Rank-Size Rule In Economics?

The rank-size rule is a rule about an inverse size to rank, often described as the size of cities in a country. The rank-size rule says that the second-largest city will have half the population as the largest.

What Country Follows The Rank-Size Rule?

The United States has a large population, a large area, and a long history of urbanization. Thus, it has none of the three characteristics used to generate primate cities. In fact, the United States follows the Rank-Size Rule.

How Do You Solve Rank-Size Rule?

Working of Rank Size Rule

  • Collect the population data of all the cities of a country or region.
  • Arrange the population of all the cities in descending order and assign rank (n) to them.
  • Denote the city with largest population as P1.
  • Divide the population of largest city (P1) with rank of each cities.

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