Can you predict most everything about a city just by knowing its population?

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Not everything but a lot more than you’d think. The latest Radiolab podcast mentions an interesting study brought to their attention by Jonah Lehrer.

It turns out that the population of a city can predict (approximately) the average walking speed, average wage, crime, number of fancy restaurants, patents produced, number of theaters, AIDS cases, libraries…

Is local history more predictive than population? What about the city’s location? Bah. Most all of these elements turn out to be overwhelmed by generic laws of urban scaling.

The study’s abstract really doesn’t do the story justice (and the discussion may be inclusive of more than the one study) so for the full scoop I highly recommend listening to the podcast which is streamable here. The story starts about 12 minutes in.

If cities interest you, I recommend Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York. It covers the darker side of the history of New York; the things you won’t learn in school.

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