Functional Classification of Cities

The structure and functions of any region varies in terms of function, history of development as well as age of the town. Some towns and cities specialize in some functions and they are known for some  products or services. However, each town performs a number of functions. On the basis of functions, Indian cities and towns can be broadly into – Administrative towns and cities, Industrial towns, Transport Cities, Commercial towns, Mining towns, Garrison Cantonment towns, Educational towns, Religious and cultural towns, and Tourist towns.

Towns are  classified according to their dominant function. This dominant function may be trade, administration, defence or entertainment.

All towns are supposed to provide various services like health, education, municipal (water, electricity, sanitation), transportation and marketing. Therefore, it is not always  worth­while to classify urban places into a single particular function.

Here are some notable attempts classifications of cities by different scholars.

Aurousseau’s Classification:

In 1921, M. Aurousseau classified towns into six classes: administrative, defence, culture, production-towns, communication and recreation. His classification though a simple one, however, suffers from the defect of over-generalization. To classify a town into one major category, generally neglects the role of other classes.

In his classification economic activities are neglected. These are important in the sense that a town also caters for the need of people residing outside its municipal limits. Various classes of functions as suggested by Aurousseau create confusion in the sense that both functional and location characteristics are mixed; for example, under communica­tion-class group of towns performing function of ‘transfer of goods’ are put.

Towns with tidal-limit, fall-line-towns, bridgehead towns point out attribute of location in performance of their function. It is thus doubtful that such towns are exclusively communicational, and not locational. Similarly, pilgrimage centres are cultural towns, but these equally are significant in their geographical location on mountainous terrain, in valleys or on banks of rivers.

Univer­sity-town is also a misnomer because this type of adjective cannot be its function but only a single quality among its overall urban milieu. But Anuousseau’s classification marks a signif­icant stage and provides a springboard for sophisticated methods. It is actually a comprehensive scheme bringing together polygonal functional urban activities to classify urban centres.

Harris’s Classification:

Chauncy D. Harris remedied the deficiencies of the former subjective and common-sense-judgement-based classifications. He was able to identify quantitatively dominant function out of multifunctional character of cities. He used employment as well as occupational figures reduced to percentages to indicate cut-off points for urban activities varying in importance.

This classification is based on the fact that some activity-groups employ many more persons than others do. For example, USA’s 27 per cent employed persons of the total urban employment are in manufacturing, while wholesale trade has about 4 per cent. Thus, it is obvious that some functions should be assigned higher percentages than others. From analyzes, he was able to set up limits for each of his types as shown in the Table 9.1.

Criteria used by Harris in Functional Classification of Cities 

Harris’s classification suffers with some grave defects and cannot be universally viable. He used metropolitan districts as functional units because the industry-group data such as those published now were not then available when he did his research. Consequently, number of cities which were too small to have metropolitan districts were left unclassified.

Carter labelled Harris’s classification as subjective because the decisions to access or delete with a minimum number or cut-off points seem to be a personal one and were set by simple empirical means. Under the class of ‘Transport and Communications’, workers engaged in telephone and telegraph services were omitted simply on empirical grounds which was nothing more than a subjective decision.

Duncan and Reiss tried to revise the problem of functional specialization by using the lowest value of supper decline or quantile groups. This revision is advantageous in the sense that it made an allowance for the different size-classes in the classification.

Howard Nelson’s Classification:

Howard Nelson published A Service Classification o f American Cities, in 1955. Nelson used employment data in 24 industry groups for 897 urban concentrations of 10,000 or more people. The data were then arbitrarily grouped into nine major categories of service functions. For each industry group, the average proportion of the labor force engaged in that activity was determined. Most cities didn’t have average employment in a given industry; therefore, a variation from the mean existed. This was done because Nelson wanted to create a classification based on clearly stated statistical procedures. Nelson used a more statistical method than his predecessors – standard deviation. He used standard deviation to establish degrees of functional specialization in a given industry group. Nelson calculated three standard deviations above the mean of each industry group, since he was specifically concerned with higher levels of employment. This would allow for a degree of emphasis inside the overall functional specialization in a city. This research discovered many instances of geographical patterns. Manufacturing was the most common of all functions, with more than 1/5 of the 897 cities, and was located in the traditional manufacturing belt of the country. (Nelson 1955) Retail trade tended to be located more in the central portion of the country, and wasn’t present in the region dominated by manufacturing. Nelson’s method was a multi-functional approach, which is a stronger method of measuring economic levels than a simple dominant classification.

Nelson further removed the shortcomings of the classifications of those of Harris and others by using a stated procedure that could be objectively checked by other workers. He decided to base his method of classification entirely upon major industry groups as listed in the 1950 Census of Population for standard metropolitan areas, urbanized areas and urban places of 10,000 or more population. He omitted the little significance groups like agriculture and construction, and finally, arrived at the nine activity groups.

The problem of city specialization, and also the degree of specialization above the average was solved by giving margins of different degree to different size classes. He did find a definite tendency for the percentages employed in some activities vary with city size. The question – ‘When is a city specialized?’ was solved by using a statistical technique – the Standard Deviation (SD).

A city can be specialized in more than one activity and to varying degrees. Thus he showed for each city all activities that qualified for plus 1, plus 2, or plus 3 SDs above the mean. Table 9.2 indicates averages and SD in percentages for selected nine activity groups (1950) as developed by Nelson.

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About Rashid Faridi

I am Rashid Aziz Faridi ,Writer, Teacher and a Voracious Reader.
This entry was posted in Class Notes, earth, urban morphology, Urban Studies. Bookmark the permalink.

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