A location theory for rural settlement

John C. Hudson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


A theory of rural settlement location is proposed which will explain changes in settlement distribution over time. A series of spatial processes similar to those found in plant ecology studies are postulated for rural settlement. There are three phases: Colonization, by which the occupied territory of a population expands; spread, through which settlement density increases with a tendency to short distance dispersal; and competition, the process which produces a regularity in settlement pattern when rural dwellers are found in sufficient numbers to compete for space. Empirical investigations over a ninety-year period (1870–1960) in six Iowa counties reveals that the expected increase in regularity does occur. These effects are measured by fitting the Poisson, negative binomial, and regular Poisson distributions to quadrat censuses of the settlement maps. Variance-mean ratios declined over time with changes in the farm economy, requiring fewer, but larger farms. The negative binomial fit the early, more clustered distributions best, whereas the regular Poisson series fit the recent data best.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-381
Number of pages17
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1969

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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