The Impact of Political Annexation on Urban Primacy: A natural experiment on Mexico City testing the institutional origins of primacy




Capital cities, institutional economics, Mexico City, primacy disruption, urbanization, urban primacy


Institutional theories of urban primacy suggest centralized urbanization can be decentralized through political reform. Despite this potential, rectifying primacy and its attendant inefficiencies attracts sporadic interest. Perhaps this is because the disruption of primacy is rarely observed, rendering the potential of decentralization a nebulous concept. Missing cities are a defining feature of primacy yet rarely figure in empirical cost-benefit analyses. To explore this dimension, we examine the history of urbanization in a large country renowned for primacy before and after it was invaded and divided into two countries. In the invaded part of the country, we observe the disruption of primacy following the transformation of political institutions, highlighting the importance of addressing institutions in the redress of urban primacy.

Author Biographies

George Wilkinson, The Australian Urban Design Research Centre, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

George is a management consultant with expertise in strategy, business analysis and project management. He holds a BA in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley an MS in Human Biology from the University of Western Australia and an MBA from the University of Cape Town. George’s PhD titled, A Scarcity of Large Non-Capital Cities: A national analysis of the drivers of urban primacy in Australia, examines the drivers of urban primacy in Australian States in light of numerous international studies of primacy that attribute a driving role to political factors. Given Western Australia is one of the most extreme cases of urban primacy, both in magnitude and scale, George has chosen to study at UWA & AUDRC, two of the state’s premier urban research institutions under the supervision of AUDRCs Dr Julian Bolleter and Dr Fiona Haslam McKenzie from the Centre for Regional Development.

Fiona Haslam McKenzie, Centre for Regional Development, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia

Professor Fiona Haslam Mckenzie was educated in Western Australia and the United States and has a varied academic background including a PhD in political geography, researching the socio-economic impacts of the restructuring of the agricultural industry. Fiona has extensive experience in population and socio-economic change, housing, regional economic development and analysis of remote, regional and urban socio-economic indicators. She has published widely and undertaken work for the corporate and small business sectors both nationally and in Western Australia as well conducting work for all three tiers of government.

Fiona has served on several government and private sector boards. She was previously the Western Australian Director of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and subsequently led the CSIRO Minerals Down Under Regions in Transition Project. In 2012 she was appointed Principal Research Leader of the Regional Economies – Enduring Community Value from Mining program for the Remote Economic Participation Co-operative Research Centre until 2015, when she was appointed co-director of the Centre for Regional Development at the University of Western Australia. She is currently researching the socio-economic impact of different workforce arrangements for the mining industry and uneven economic development in Western Australia, focusing on the key issues of competitiveness, resilience and spatial integration.

Roles and responsibilities Senior research fellow
Co-director of the Centre for Regional Development
Researcher Western Australian Regional Capitals Alliance

Julian Bolleter, The Australian Urban Design Research Centre, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

Dr Julian Bolleter is a researcher and teacher at UWA’s School of Design, tackling issues facing Australian cities in the 21st century. Originally from Perth, he has worked internationally as a landscape architect in Sydney, Dubai, Boston and London.

Dr Bolleter now brings his international experience to his role as Co-Director of the Australian Urban Design Research Centre (AUDRC), where he delivers commissioned research for state government planning departments, writing urban design/city-related books, conducting urban design projects, and teaching an urban design course.

Dr Bolleter is a published author and provides expert opinions on the future of Australian cities for major media outlets such as 'The Conversation' and 'Catalyst' on the ABC.

With his AUDRC colleagues, he's also received a range of research funding from organisations such as LandCorp, the Housing Authority and the Western Australia Planning Commission.

He describes the School of Design as an eclectic community of designers and researchers, and he believes it offers a broad diversity of expertise and opinion with its spirit of ‘messy creativity’.


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