Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Networks – not size – give cities competitive advantage

A city’s size no longer is the key factor in building vibrant local economies, according to a study by a Michigan State University sociologist.

Zachary Neal found that although America's largest cities once had the most sophisticated economies, today that honor goes to cities with many connections to other places, regardless of their size. The study was published online Aug. 30 in the research journal City and Community.

The rise of commercial aviation, high-speed rail, the Internet and other technological advances have allowed smaller cities to compete with urban powers such as New York and Chicago, Neal said. The study identifies Denver, Phoenix and even Bentonville, Ark. – Wal-Mart’s corporate home – as some of the most well-connected and economically sophisticated communities.

“Fifty years ago, no one would have thought to put a multinational corporation in Bentonville, Ark., when it could be in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles,” said Neal, assistant professor of sociology. “But changes in technology have started to level the playing field in terms of what cities can do.”

Neal examined the population and air-traffic data for 64 U.S. cities from 1900 to 2000. He found that a city’s population was the most important factor for its economy until the 1950s, when the spread of commercial air travel fostered more cross-country business networks. That trend continued with advances such as teleconferencing and the growth of the Internet.

Some large cities – including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago – built on those networks and maintained their economic clout, according to the study. Other cities – like Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh – were unable to effectively capitalize and now are considered “poorly connected.” This holds true for the overall economies of the cities and for specific sectors such as manufacturing and transportation and communication, Neal said.

And then there are communities that recently have developed connections to become “wired towns,” he said. These are smaller cities that were essentially insignificant 50 years ago but have emerged as major economic centers, according to the study.

Wired towns include the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina – which pooled its regional resources to focus on innovation and creativity – and Miami, which took advantage of its location to serve as the primary link between North, Central and South America.

Neal said the findings could help city planners and officials better formulate plans to stimulate their local economies by helping them know where to focus their efforts. “Just attracting more residents won't have much effect,” he said. “But building relationships with other cities both near and far, for example through business partnerships or more nonstop flights, can go a long way.”

In the next 50 years, Neal added, the most important factor in local economies may very well shift again – possibly to one based on the environmental sustainability of cities.

“The transition from a size-based hierarchy to one rooted in networks shows that this is a fluid structure,” Neal said.

Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

Zachary Neal | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>