Assignment One

modified: Monday, September 26, 2016

Urban Planning 539:
Methods of Economic Development Planning

College of Architecture and Urban Planning
University Of Michigan, Fall 2016
Prof. Scott Campbell (home page)

Assignment (+link to assignment page)

Task Concepts/techniques Unit(s) of analysis Group or Individual Task? assignment posted (or earlier) date due (subject to change) file name for submission Written Format (and suggested page length) Presentation Format (a link to upload presentation slides) percent of grade
1. Place Analysis select 2 cases for your comparative case study (Assign 1-3) and do an initial analysis of the two places initial survey of data and other documentation availability place (neighborhood, city or region) groups of 2 - 3 students (ideally the same group for Assign 1-3) Sep 2 Oct 4 [lastname1,lastsname2,lastname3],up539assign1.pdf e.g., Liu,Schmidt,Gonzales,up539assign1.pdf 2-3 pages including a few simple reference maps several slides (upload to the shared google doc), brief presentation (5 minutes) 15


Goals of the Assignment

  1. Identify two places that would be suitable for analysis throughout the semester (Assignments 1 - 3).
  2. Do a quick assessment of economic and demographic data availability for the two places. You may encounter data challenges in two types of places: (a) international locations and (2) small-scale geographies (e.g., neighborhoods).
    • Is data available for a wide range of variables? e.g., employment by industry and occupation, income, firm-level data, poverty rates, unemployment rates, labor force participation rates, population by subgroups, education levels, etc.
    • Is data available at various time points (e.g., both contemporary data and at least one time point in the past -- such as 2005 and 1995?). This will be critical to examine changes over time.
    • Can you find data at a sufficient level of disaggregation (e.g., employment not just for manufacturing as a whole, but by detailed subsectors)?
    • Is data also available for the larger geographic context? (e.g., the region, state/province and/or nation-state that contains the city)? This will be important in examining the relative industrial mix of the city or region compared to the nation as a whole.
    • On a somewhat different note, do the two places contain interesting local economic dynamics and/or economic development policies? [This will make your project more engaging.]

Steps of the Assignment

  1. Form groups of 2 - 3 students. (This need not be the same groups as in Assign 0). Ideally, you WILL use the same groups for Assignments 1 - 3. Use this spreadsheet to develop ideas and record your finalized group and case studies.
  2. Identify two places. The two places will likely be cities, metropolitan areas of regions -- though in some cases a section of a city (e.g., neighborhood) might also be feasible (though data available is generally more challenging as you shrink your geographic unit).
  3. Write a brief (2-3 page) overview. Upload to the Canvas Site.
  4. Upload your presentation slides before the start of class on Oct. 4.
    Details below:

The format:
a combination of narrative, several reference maps, a simple data table, including:

  • a concise description of the two proposed case studies (including precise boundaries: e.g., are you using municipal boundaries, metropolitan boundaries, etc.?)
  • a simple reference map of each of the two places (small and plain is fine).
  • a simple overview table with a few basic statistics (e.g., population, per capita income and/or poverty, unemployment rate, leading sectors, a simple measure of economic growth or decline). Be selective with what material you include (i.e., emphasize the quality of data, not the quantity). This table should provide a quick, vivid "sense of (economic) place". [and don't forget to provide source information for all data].
  • the logic of the comparison of the two cases, perhaps based on the characteristics of the two cases (e.g., economic, political, social, historical, etc.). For example: two older industrial cities attempting to restructure as high-tech centers, etc.
  • 3 - 5 thematic questions that you plan to address through your two case studies (e.g., is casino gambling a viable economic development strategy? Is a university a sufficient economic base for a community? Does a failing public school system invariably hinder local economic development? How many jobs does the new sustainable "green" economy generate?
  • a brief, initial evaluation of the availability of economic and demographic data (see above) and information on local economic development planning/policies. This section can be very short, but do get a good sense of whether your tentative cases will work for the class assignments. This is particularly important for (a) cities outside the U.S. and (b) cases where you use unusual geographic boundaries -- e.g., if you are looking at a specific neighborhood, can you get the data at this geographic scale?
  • NOTE: if you find early on that your initial case selections will NOT work for the project, I would encourage you to quickly explore alternative cases that are more viable. Feel free to contact me if you worry that your cases are problematic and we can think through alternatives.


• upload an electronic version of your assignment to Canvas (one per group) before the start of class-- pdf format preferred.
File name
(important): please use the following file name: [lastname1,lastsname2,lastname3],up539assign1.pdf e.g., Liu,Schmidt,Gonzales,up539assign1.pdf

Please also prepare a short presentation (ca. 5 minutes) to discuss your two cases, including:

  • your logic of selection,
  • your central thematic questions,
  • any methodological advice or challenges you have already encountered (e.g., finding data), and
  • useful data sources you have found.
  • create several slides for your presentation (a link to upload presentation slides)

Data Issues -- Please also consider these possible concerns

  1. Language of data sources (if not English)
  2. Boundary issues:  
    1. city or metro area?
    2. Inconsistent boundaries for different data sets for the same city (e.g., some are city-level, some regional, etc.)  -- short answer:  do the best with what you have and note the consequences of using different geographic areas (since cities will have somewhat different economic profiles than regions). 
  3. Determining the relevant larger geographic unit?
    1. City vs. metro?
    2. City vs. state/province?
    3. City vs. nation-state?
  4. Time series data:  can you find data both for the most recent time point and also at least one historical time point?  (e.g., 2005 and 1995).
  5. Level of disaggregation of data:  e.g., can you find not just manufacturing employment, but also broken down by sub-sector (e.g., steel, autos, computers, etc.)?
  6. Data for the two cities in different years (especially happens with cities from different countries). E.g., country A has data from years 1980, 1990, 2000, etc., but country B has data from years 1985, 1995, 2005, etc.   Answer?   That is not an intrinsic problem.   Just label all data clearly:  year, geography, source.
  7. (similar to #6):  one place’s data is just at the city level, the other just at the metro/regional level. Answer?   That is not an intrinsic problem.   Just label all data clearly:  year, geography, source.   However, unlike #6, the dynamics of cities vs. regions will mean that statistical differences between the two places may reflect differences in geographic boundaries, NOT just differences in the two economies per se. 
  8. Inflation distorts time-series data.  Solution:  control with deflators (i.e., convert to constant values).   NOTE:  there is a wide range of deflators (e.g., the CPI).  Find the most appropriate one for your country (and if appropriate), sector. 

Finding Data
links to useful resources. Do also see the UM Library's Spatial and Numeric Data Services (SAND) and Data Visualization resources.


Selecting two locations
Ideally the various groups in the class will select an interesting and diverse range of cities that include both growing and declining local economies.
the Midwestern US (e.g. Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Flint)
other US locations (e.g., San Francisco, Austin, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Denver, Philadelphia)
international locations (e.g., Shanghai, Berlin, Nairobi, Durban, Brasilia, Yokohama)

scales and examples
a city
a neighborhood (e.g., southwest Detroit)
a region (such as southern Appalachia, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Silicon Valley, the Mississippi Delta, the Basque region of Spain, Kosovo, Kashmir, etc.)
a tourist destination (such as Hawaii, Disneyworld, EuroDisney, Times Square, Las Vegas, Bahamas, the new casinos in Detroit)
Note: there are some advantages in picking a location that you either know or can visit during the semester, but certainly not necessary.

Logic for case selection:
You can select any two locations, but choosing based on some interesting commonalities and differences can lead to useful analytical contrasts.   Here are several types of comparisons:

  • two adjacent cities (e.g., Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti;  New York and Newark;  San Francisco and Oakland)
  • cities on opposite sides of a national border (e.g., San Diego and Tijuana;  Detroit and Windsor)
  • two cities with apparently similar economic bases (e.g., Buffalo and Pittsburgh;  Austin and Seattle).
  • cities with similar economic woes (Benton Harbor, MI and Camden, NJ;  Gary, IN and Youngstown, OH)
  • two state capitals (Sacramento, CA and Albany, NY)
  • two national capitals (Bangkok and New Delhi)
  • two global cities (London and Tokyo)
  • a capital and a non-capital within the same country (e.g., Shanghai and Beijing; Berlin and Frankfurt; Brasilia and Rio).

You may instead select two economic regions (rather than cities).  These can be defined as a county or group of counties (e.g., MSA), a state, a group of states, or any other useful boundary
  • Southeast Michigan and Northeast Ohio;  Sonora, Mexico and Texas;  Scottish Highlands and Scottish Lowlands;  etc.

In addition, you will later find it useful to compare your two locations to a larger context (such as national-level data).   (example:   if you are comparing Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, you might also compare to statistics at the Washtenaw County , SE Michigan, Michigan, Midwest and/or US levels).

For ideas about the case study method, please see the selected readings by Robert Yin in the ctools "Resource" section.

IMPORTANT FINAL WORD: Use complete and correct citations (really small footnotes or references fine -- or perhaps use footnotes on one page and have a separate "sources" page). Refer to all sources used (including data, maps, images, tables, graphs, course readings and materials found on the Internet). Please familiarize yourself with standard practice of academic integrity in coursework. --> See this link for complete information.