Selected Land Use Theory


  1. Introduction

  2. Johann Heinrich von Thünen (1783-1850)
    1819: first draft of "The Ideal State"
    1826: first edition
    1842: second edition

  3. The Thunen Model
    1. (Initial) Assumptions
      • Objective Function: Maximization of rent (per unit of land)
      • Transportation & Transport Costs: linear transport cost/ distance function
      • Production/ cultivation: single products/ spatially uniform cost structures
      • Markets: at center only; given prices
    2. (Linear) location rent gradient for one crop: R=Y(p-c-fm)
    3. Several competing crops, all with linear rent functions
      • Conditions for zone/ring formation
      • Characteristics for center-proximic vs. peripheral land uses
    4. Several centers, boundaries of resource hinterlands, transport distortions
    5. Substitution among inputs, variable land use intensity (Found); disaggregating the cost function and allowing for transport costs and (spatial) price variations for inputs:
      • labor (wage rates)
      • monetary capital (interest rates variable in space?)
      • capital goods & material inputs
        1. purchased at center (or elsewhere)
        2. produced on premises (spatially variable opportunity costs)

    6. Farm size, scale economies, organizational considerations
    7. Multiple crops/ joint production; "interculture"; "intertillage" (Goodall)
    8. Technological change
      • in transportation
      • in production (intensity increasing or decreasing or neutral technological change)
        • Labor-saving, capital-saving, land-saving etc.
        • Technological change overcoming physical factors

    9. Population growth or decline, demand changes, price variations
    10. A dynamic von Thunen model with market uncertainty and recursive adjustments over time; (see Day & Tinney)
    11. Insights gained, principles derived, applications, critique

  4. Readings in Agricultural Location & Land Use

  5. Urban Land Use, the Alonso Model
    1. Determinants of urban land use
    2. Basic indifference functions (Alonso, Ch.4, pp.59-61)
    3. Derivation of bid price surfaces for households (Alonso, pp.62ff)
    4. Location of urban businesses
    5. Third dimension, urban "space"
    6. Insights gained, applications, extensions, critique

Internet Sites Related to Land Use:


Abrams, Charles. "The Use of Land in Cities," Scientific American, September 1965, pp.151ff.

Harrison S. Campbell, Jr., Residential Land Use [1998]

Fujita, M., "Urban Land Use Theory," in Location Theory (Fundamentals of Pure and Applied Economics, Vol.5), (1986), 73-149, Section 1. (A good survey)

Platt, Rutherford H., Land Use and Society: Geography, Law, and Public Policy. Island Press, 1996. (Paperback, $30.--)

Basic Definitions:

A surplus (profit) or 'residual' accruing to a factor of production; here: accruing to land; resulting from some advantage, e.g. from a locational advantage.
Rent Gradient
A representation of the decline in rent with distance from market (center).
Intensive Agriculture
System of farming characterized by relatively high levels of factor inputs (capital [including fertilizer] and/or labor] per unit of land.
Bid Price / Bid Rent Curve/Function
A set of combinations of land prices and distances among which the individual (or firm) is indifferent; describes prices that the household (firm) would be willing to pay at varying locations in order to achieve a given level of satisfaction (utility/ profits). Bid price functions represent hybrid combinations of indifference surfaces and budget constraints.

Urban Economics, Urban Studies, Urban Planning (Courses & Programs)

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