Post-Industrial Pathways: The Economic Reorganization of the Urban Rust Belt
Committee ChairSchwartzman, Kathleen
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractSince the 1970s, waves of deindustrialization have dramatically transformed the urban Rust Belt. The plight of cities in this region is well documented by scholars. The story they present upholds central assumptions in theories of urban growth, mainly new cities grow in new economic regions at the expense of others. This dissertation challenges this notion by addressing the following question: What are the different economic trajectories Rust Belt cities have taken over the course of global economic restructuring from 1970 to 2000? In this research, 69 Rust Belt cities are classified into three different categories based on their performance on a quality of life index over this time period: stable, struggling, and devastated. Then, conventional quantitative methods are used to map changes in employment trends onto the cities in each category. This step provides a general picture of economic restructuring experiences in these cities, which shows all lose manufacturing employment, but increases in business services employment distinguishes stable cities while increases in professional services employment distinguishes devastated cities. Next, an innovative methodology is used to identify different kinds of economic transitions for different types of cities. The analysis shows larger, stable cities have been able to reorganize their local economies into producer service-based economies. It also indicates manufacturing remains central to the local economies in smaller, stable cities, and finally, all devastated cities are developing healthcare-based local economies. Finally, two stable and two devastated cities are examined in-depth to provide a detailed description of local economic transformations. The stable cities have combined local R&D facilities with a strong infrastructure of specialty manufacturers to become high-tech production sites. This change has fueled business services development in these cities. Devastated cities are holding onto old manufacturing while greatly expanding hospital-based employment. Overall, this dissertation makes a contribution by using multiple and innovative methods to develop a rich portrait of the economic reorganization of the urban Rust Belt. This portrait questions central assumptions in theoretical understandings of urban growth and serves as a foundation for an examination of the causes of successful local economic transformation.