Simple agents, complex emergent city: Agent-based modeling of intraurban migration

Shipeng Sun, Steven M. Manson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Intraurban migration—residential movement within a metropolitan area—defines the nature of urbanization. Housing location decision making is a complex process driven by the interactions between the housing market and home searchers. Researchers have paid much attention to the environmental, socioeconomic, cultural, and policy features of housing markets. In contrast, housing search has been relatively neglected due to challenges of theory, methodology, and data. This article addresses these challenges by presenting an agent-based model of intraurban migration featuring straightforward and empirically specified rules for housing search. This model is calibrated and validated against real-world housing vacancies and relocation origin–destination pairs extracted from parcel records for the Twin Cities of Minnesota, USA, for 2005–2007. Drawing on these unique data sidesteps a long-standing issue, the prohibitive costs of identifying, recording, and quantifying housing search activities for an entire metropolitan region. Conceptually, this model updates geographic theories of intraurban migration that focus on intervening opportunities and spatial bias. It also methodologically advances the agent-based modeling of urbanization with a high-resolution, empirically specified model that demonstrates how urban pattern emerges from simple rules and interactions. Overall, the model demonstrates that relatively straightforward housing search rules can simulate realistic patterns of intraurban migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationComputational Approaches for Urban Environments
EditorsMarco Helbich
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9783319114699
ISBN (Print)9783319114682
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015.


  • Agent-based modeling
  • Housing locational decisions
  • Housing search
  • Intraurban migration


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