New paper on resilience of urban economic structures

Cities that undergo constant but measured change are better positioned to weather the impacts of economic shocks. That’s according to a new paper, Resilience of Urban Economic Structures Following the Great Recession, out earlier this year in the journal Sustainability. Sustainability scientist Shade Shutters is lead author. In a recent post, John Plodinec summarizes the article; it’s an interesting perspective. Plodinec is the former associate director for resilience technologies at the Community and Regional Resilience Institute (CARRI), established in 2007 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory with the support of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Drawing on a parable, Plodinec compares Shutters to a wise forester, looking not at what makes trees fall, but what makes them stand. You can read Plodinec’s piece here. The paper’s full abstract follows. The future sustainability of cities is contingent on economic resilience. Yet, urban resilience is still not well understood, as cities are frequently disrupted by shocks, such as natural disasters, economic recessions, or changes in government policies. These shocks can significantly alter a city’s economic structure. Yet the term economic structure is often used metaphorically and is often not understood sufficiently by those having to implement policies. Here, we operationalized the concept of economic structure as a weighted network of interdependent industry sectors. For 938 U.S. urban areas, we then quantified the magnitude of change in the areas’ economic structures over time, focusing on changes associated with the 2007–2009 global recession. The result is a novel method of analyzing urban change over time as well as a typology of U.S. urban systems based on how their economic structures responded to the recession. We further compared those urban types to changes in economic performance during the recession to explore each structural type’s adaptive capacity. Results suggest cities that undergo constant but measured change are better positioned to weather the impacts of economic shocks.