Concentric Zone

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  • Topic: Concentric zone model, City, Sector model
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A. Concentric Zone Theory

The Concentric ring model also known as the Burgess model is one of the earliest theoretical models to explain urban social structures. It was created by sociologist Ernest Burgess in 1925.

Zone I, the CBD, lies at the centre of the city. Zone II is in transition. It is the crowded, multi-occupied zone of the city first invaded by migrants. Within this Zone are the ghetto areas (these are not necessarily slums). In Zone III are the working men's houses, the area of second generation immigrants, one step up from Zone II. Zones IV and V are residential; Zone IV for the better-off and Zone V for the commuters. All these zones are held to have evolved separately and without planning. They result from the competition of different socio-economic groups for land. This competition results in variations in the cost of land and, therefore, causes segregation within a city. The model assumes uniformly flat, and available, land, and ignores the importance of transport routes, but relies on the theory that city growth results from distinct waves of in-migrants, that is to invasion and succession. In this last respect it is therefore more applicable to cities in the USA than to European cities. See also sector theory, multiple nuclei model,Mann's model.


Concentric zone mode

l     Commuter zone

     Residential zone

     Working class zone

     Zone of transition

     Factory zone


The Model

Concentric zone theory

Based on human ecology theories done by Burgess and applied on Chicago, it was the first to give the explanation of distribution of social groups within urban areas. This concentric ring model depicts urban land use in concentric rings: the Central Business District (or CBD) was in the middle of the model, and the city expanded in rings with different land uses. It is effectively an urban version of Von Thunen's regional land use model developed a century earlier. It contrasts with Homer Hoyt's sector model and the multiple nuclei model.

The zones identified are:

1. The center was the CBD
2. The transition zone of mixed residential and commercial uses 3. Low-class residential homes (inner suburbs), in later decades called inner city 4. Better quality middle-class homes (Outer Suburbs)

5. Commuters zone
Burgess often observed that there was a correlation between the distance from the CBD and the wealth of the inhabited area; wealthier families tended to live much further away from the Central Business District. As the city grew, Burgess also observed that the CBD would cause it to expand outwards; this in turn forced the other rings to expand outwards as well.

The model is more detailed than the traditional down-mid-uptown divide by which downtown is the CBD, uptown the affluent residential outer ring, and midtown in between.

Bid rent curve

Burgess's work is based on the bid rent curve. This theory states that the concentric circles are based on the amount that people will pay for the land. This value is based on the profits that are obtainable from maintaining a business on that land. The center of the town will have the highest number of customers so it is profitable for retail activities. Manufacturing will pay slightly less for the land as they are only interested in the accessibility for workers, 'goods in' and 'goods out'. Residential land use will take the surrounding land.

The model has been challenged by many contemporary urban geographers. First, the model does not work well with cities outside the United States, in particular with those developed under different historical contexts. Even in the United States, because of changes such as advancement in transportation and information technology and transformation in global economy, cities are no longer organized with clear "zones" . It describes the peculiar American geography, where the inner city is poor while suburbs are...
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