Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Legacy of Place

Rust Belt parochialism is a problem. The mega-region lacks the frontier geographies that spur economic growth. That's been my hypothesis, but I didn't realize that there are quantifiable measures of isolation termed "legacy of place". I've already looked at global connectivity metrics for US cities, but legacy of place can reveal the opportunity landscape of a region:

Legacy of Place reflects the demographic, social, and economic history of metropolitan areas. It includes variables that may suggest older physical infrastructure including industrial and residential buildings (approximated by the percentage of houses built before 1940), industrial heritage (share of manufacturing employment), and racial and poverty concentrations in central cities (dissimilarity index and the core city's share of poverty relative to the core city's share of the metropolitan population). This factor is different from other eight in that it is a policy variable, which could be changed to improve future growth prospects. Rather, it is a reminder that many regional economies must overcome historical circumstances in order to return to a path of growth. It also offers a convenient way to select a group of metro areas that share similar legacies with one of the four NEO metro areas.

As far as I can determine, legacy of place is a recent statical innovation that tries to capture the drag on the urban economies most pronounced in postindustrial cities. Mike Madison supposes that Pittsburgh suffers from exceptional "local hostility to outside influences." Janko sent to me a link that lists the legacy of place for American MSAs, allowing us to better ponder Mike's assertion. Pittsburgh's legacy of place is indeed relatively very strong (10th nationally) and represents a significant drag on the regional economy. However, the top 10 or 20 places do not overlay the cultural geography Mike blames for Pittsburgh's parochial attitudes. Of course, my idea that the industrial political geography is largely to blame doesn't exactly explain much more of the rankings. I would have expected the regions with the most political units (i.e. municipalities) to suffer from the greatest legacy of place. Regardless, the Cleveburgh corridor might be America's parochial capital.

I would further suggest that the legacy of place would impede the kind of mega-regional collaboration that Richard Longworth says the Midwest so desperately needs. Instead of breaking down the walls, the Globalization and the Midwest conference appears to be reinforcing the legacy of place. When I read that GLUE is struggling to find out about the "Global Midwest Institute," I have to wonder if the right people were brought to the table in Chicago. How might we best lessen the legacy of place for our Rust Belt cities? That's I question I hope to explore this weekend (and during the pre-PodCamp tour of Pittsburgh) at PodCamp Pittsburgh.

1 comment:

Mike Madison said...

Just to be clear about what I wrote at Pittsblog and in the comments there:

I suggested that the legacy of the Scots/Irish migration to Appalachia contributes substantially to the populism and resistance to outsiders that we see in Appalachia -- which includes Pittsburgh -- today.

I did not suggest that modern populism and resistance to outsiders can or should be blamed entirely on that migration. Obviously, there are other causes at work.