The Primate city concept was proposed by Mark Jefferson in 1939. It is a concept in the urban hierarchy. The hierarchy is based on the population size of urban centers and settlements. According to Jefferson in a settlement complex, there is a city that is a disproportionately large and dominant city and is exceptionally expressive of the settlement complex and the region. This city is a representative city of the entire complex.
Jefferson had studied 51 countries in Europe. When he concluded he found that 46 of them had such dominant cities.
Countries with a Primate city
|London||London in Britain is about 3 to 4 times the size of Birmingham and Manchester|
|Paris||Paris in France is 5 times larger than the next largest cities Lyon and Marseille|
|Sao Paulo||Sao Paulo in Brazil than the next largest cities Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia|
|Mexico city||Mexico City in Mexico than the next largest cities Ecatepec and Guadalajara|
However, not all countries have such Primate cities. They have multiple cities with an equal population. For example
Countries with multiple Primate cities
|India||India has four prominent cities|
|Australia||Melbourne and Sydney|
|Canada||Toronto and Montreal|
Jefferson himself didn't explain the process in the emergence of such cities. Linskey observed that countries that have a primate city have the following features.
Features of countries that have a Primate city(Linskey)
- Countries have an agricultural base
- They are smaller countries having a smaller territorial extent
- Low per capita income
- High population pressure on resources
- The high population growth rate
- Former colonial status
However, there are many countries that defy the primate city law even if there have one or more features as mentioned above.
India with an agricultural base, low per capita income, high pressure of population, and former colonial status doesn't have one city as a primate city. It may be due to India being a very large country territorially.
Russia despite its largest territorial extent has Moscow as a primate city. It may be due to its small population base.
Gunnar Myrdal's Cumulative Causation Theory
Although Jefferson himself didn't explain the process the development of primate city can be explained on the basis of Gunnar Myrdal's cumulative causation theory which is explained in this book Asian Drama.
Myrdal's theory is an economic theory that tries to explain how disparities develop between cities it explains about disparities develop and why some sentence with an initial resource or historical advantage can grow disproportionately sucking all investments resources and development prospects towards itself. This is called the suction pump effect. This idea is valid for many primate cities
- London as a port
- Sao Paulo as a port
- Paris at the confluence of rivers
- Cairo in Egypt with its position at the head of Nile delta.
Desirability of Primate city
For smaller countries with lesser territorial size and for poorer developing countries, primate city is an efficient basis of resource and development management. It eliminates duplication of development approach and ensures optimum utilization of space and use of limited Investments.
In the long run, however, primacy should be discouraged because primacy can result in disparities. The development to disperse and spread, the suction advantage of the primate city centers should be neutralized.
In India, although there is no primacy at the national level there is primacy at the state level. In almost all states the state capitals are the primate cities of the state. 3 states don't have primacy
- In Uttar Pradesh because of its large size
- In Tamil Nadu, Chennai is the largest one. But it is not disproportionately large. Centres like Coimbatore and Madurai have developed into major cities. It is an example of spread of development.
- In Kerala, although Cochin and Ernakulam is large but not disproportionate to be called a primate city.