Assignment Five

modified: Monday, December 21, 2015

Urban Planning 539:
Methods of Economic Development Planning

College of Architecture and Urban Planning
University Of Michigan, Fall 2015
Prof. Scott Campbell (home page)

Assignment (+link to assignment page)

Task Concepts/techniques assignment posted by date due (tentative) Unit(s) of analysis suggested page length percent of grade
5. Final Project provide an integrated profile and analysis of the two places [multiple] Nov 25 Presentation Dec 9 - 14; paper version due Tuesday Dec 22 [multiple] estimate: 12-24 pages of text plus reference and thematic maps, graphs, tables 45

Comparative Economic Analysis

Overview: Assignment 5 both brings together the components of your previous assignments (1. place; 2. sectors; 3. labor; 4. policies) and adds to them a fluid, analytical, thoughtful narrative. The reader should see both detail and the big picture, and see both each city in its own terms and a comparison of the two cities. Avoid simply compiling a long compendium of statistics. Instead, synthesize, place the data in context, make comparisons, interpret and draw larger conclusions (supported by your various sources of evidence). If useful, structure your analysis around one or several central questions.

This assignment is to create a profile of the economic conditions of two different neighborhoods, cities and/or regions, and explain how they got that way.  Imagine giving the report to someone who wants to quickly understand the economic structure, trends and origins of a place.  Make it user-friendly:  how can you quickly provide the reader with an overview of existing conditions, comparisons to other places, explanations of the reasons for the way the economy developed, and an historical understanding of economic restructuring?   It is neither simply a collection of data nor a theoretical paper, but instead a hybrid:   use economic ideas to help explain patterns in the data.   You may use a variety of primary and secondary sources: quantitative data, economic history, archival work, interviews, observation, images, etc.  Grading:  your project will be evaluated based on its creativity, clarity, intelligence, accuracy and completeness in documenting the local or regional economy.


1. to document the existing economic conditions (problems and assets) of two local (or regional) economies
2. document their underlying economic structures (as seen through sectors, labor markets, places)
3. explain the historical origins of # 1 and #2.
4. to highlight and analyze selected economic development strategies (policies, programs) in the two locations

You are to turn in a single, integrated write-up. All group members receive the same grade. (The expectation of the level of work from the final projects that corresponds to the size of your team.)


Depending on the location, some of the following questions might help you structure your profile:

  • What are the main types of economic activity?
  • How economically healthy or struggling is the place?
  • What is the geographic scale of these activities? (e.g., local, regional, national, international)?
  • What are the demographics of the people involved in this activity (from the production, distribution and consumption sides)?
  • What are the physical manifestations of this activity (e.g., building type and quality, etc.), and how does the build environment give clues about changes in this activity (e.g., gentrification, transition, decline)?
  • What is the overall trend in the local economy? Is it booming, stable, struggling, declining, recovering, uneven, etc.?
  • Does the local economy seem to be quite stable over time or volatile?
  • etc.

Overall advice

  • MOST IMPORTANT: emphasize analysis, not just descriptive statistics. It is important to write an analytical narrative rather than just compiling a fragmented set of data. Help the reader understand the economy, its structure, its main challenges. All reports should have a strong conclusion that pulls it all together. Avoid being merely descriptive. The product is not just a statistical compendium, but instead an analytically rigorous profile.
  • Good graphs are important. see the advice from Assignment 3 (and these earlier guidelines from UP504). Be sure to include full citations on data, tables, graphs, maps, etc.
  • Take advantage of the comparative structure. Think about why are comparisons useful and when they are not. How can you set up graphs and data tables to compare, esp. when the units or scales are different? (e.g., pop in two cities of very different sizes, such as Buffalo and Duluth).
  • Use original sources where possible -- that is, rather than reprint the population numbers in a local city report, go back to the original source (e.g., the 2010 US Census) to get the data.

Format for Presentation
We have set aside two class sessions (Dec 9, 14) for presentations.  Given the short amount of time (and the large amount of data and information you have gathered), concentrate your efforts on presenting the main themes, controversies and challenges. (Refer classmates with an interest in details to your written version.) NOTE: given the classroom digital projector's difficulties with small fonts in pdf files, you might alternatively use Powerpoint (or another format) for the presentation.

With 7 groups: approximate time for each presentation: Groups of three (22 minutes); two (17 minutes); one (12 minutes); plus 5 minutes of question & answer.

Format for Written Report
Suggested Length for entire report: approximately 12-24 pages of double-spaced text (not counting tables, charts, maps and other visuals).  This limit is flexible.   I put a relatively modest page number to make you focus on the main points and not get buried in a sea of data.    Obviously, larger groups will create longer reports. Focus your final project on providing a rigorous, insightful analysis of your two cities. Get inside the city/metro economy: what makes it tick (or not tick)? Link contemporary economic developments and challenges to the city's history (e.g., how did the local economic history shape its present, its trajectory)? Keep your narrative focused through your central questions/theses: end on several strong conclusions.

The relationship between Assignments 1-4 and this project (Assignment 5): You will be incorporating many of the themes and information from the earlier assignments into this final project (since a comprehensive profile of a local economy includes the dimensions of place, sectors, labor/occupations and policies). That said, Assignment 5 is NOT simply a compilation or collation of the previous assignments into one package. Instead, your focus is on crafting a lucid, insightful, analytical portrait of two local economies. Therefore, selectively use the ideas and data (from Assignments 1-4) that serve this larger purpose, integrating them into your larger project.

What to turn in:
All groups should upload a copy of your report (either Word or pdf format) to ctools.

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.