Assignment Five

modified: Thursday, April 21, 2011

Urban Planning 539:
Methods of Economic Development Planning

College of Architecture and Urban Planning
University Of Michigan, Winter 2011
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] Mar 17 Presentation Apr 14 - 19; paper version Apr 26 (end of the day Tuesday) [multiple] estimate: 12-24 pages of text plus reference and thematic maps, graphs, tables 45

Comparative Economic Analysis/Compendium

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 theories to help explain patterns in the data.   This assignment combines primary and secondary data analysis and presentation, economic history, detective work, archival work, interviews, observation, photography, videos, oral history, etc.   All group projects should begin with a basic profile of their area economy; you may then examine in more detail one or more specific aspects of the local economies. Pick small or specific enough locations to allow for a detailed, manageable project.  Be mindful of the boundaries you select, since they will affect the ease or difficulty of finding economic and socio-demographic data.  Grading:  your project will be evaluated based on its creativity, clarity, intelligence, accuracy and completeness in documenting the local or regional economy.

This project has two parts:

  • a comparative profile of two local economies (or regional economies)
  • an examination and analysis of selected economic development strategies in the two locations

1. to document the existing economic conditions (problems and assets) of two local (or regional) economies
2. document their underlying economic structures
3. explain the historical origins of # 1 and #2.

Project Steps:
5a: Form Groups (by Jan 20)
5b: Groups submit a 1 page description of the two locations, with precise borders for each location, the logic of the selection, and any specific economic issues or policies of particular interest.  (Jan 27)
5c. Each group meets with instructor to discuss progress and structure of report (early March)
5d. Presentations (Apr 14 - 19)
5e. Final Reports due (Apr 26)

Work in teams of 2-3 students. You are to turn in a single, integrated write-up. All group members receive the same grade. (We will expect a level of work from the final projects that corresponds to the size of your team.)


Questions to consider include:

  • Develop a brief economic profile or portrait of the place. 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 businesses are weathering this economic crisis the best and worst? What signs do you see of it? Interviews? Sales? Activity, observation, etc.
  • Does the local economy seem to be quite stable over time or changing at a hurried pace?
  • 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.
  • Emphasize the importance of the economic data; demote the importance of the rest (e.g., physical characteristics; these should serve the larger more focused purpose of informing the economic analysis.)
  • Good graphs are important. see these guidelines. 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 2000 US Census) to get the data.
Documentation of Existing Conditions:
* photographs, slides, observation, graphics, drawings, interviews with people on the street, expert interviews, primary and secondary information, statistics, opinion polls, etc.
* You may augment your economic analysis with a broader examination of the architectural, social, and environmental conditions and history as well, but do focus on the structure and dynamics of the local economy.
How it got that way:
* who were the key agents?  (firms, planners, government, etc.)
* socio-economic forces:   business cycles, suburbanization, depressions, technological change, globalization, etc.

(where possible, provide not only most recent data for subject area, but also comparisons back in time and across space -- e.g., a comparison city, the larger county, state or national data).  [see Bendavid-Val, Avrom. 1991. Regional and Local Economic Analysis for Practitioners. 4th ed. (New York: Praeger Publishers) for a good overview.]  

Selected elements (not complete, but representative).  Note: you may not be able to find all of these listed below. Also: this is simply a long list of possible items. There is NO NEED to find all of these. Keep your focus on developing a concise portrait of your two local/regional economies, structured by several thematic questions, using data selectively and strategically to illustrate your main points and insights. Link data to analysis.

a. Demographic
total population
by sex, race, age
ancestry, migration status
measures of wealth, income, poverty and inequality
components of population change (Pop. change = births - deaths + inmigration - outmigration)
education levels

b. Employment
labor force participation
employment by industry
employment by occupation
commuting and labor-market areas

c. Economic Activity by Firm, Sector
revenues, profits, productivity, output
share of GDP -- if available
major employers
firm size

d. Physical Geography, Land
land area
natural resources
land uses
major geographic features e. social-economic geography, including regional infrastructure:major transport structures:  airports, marine terminals, etc.
research parks
the relative position of the city in the larger regional, national, global economic hierarchy (e.g., central place theory)

f.    Institutional Aspects
regional and local governments
public revenues and expenditures
trade and labor organizations
laws, programs and policies affecting economic development

g.    Assets (overlaps with previous categories)
natural resources

h. maps

thematic (representation of data)
both local and the city in its regional context

Time Period:
Where possible, include not only the most recent data, but also data from past years (e.g., 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010)  Pay attention to business cycles.


PART TWO:   Analysis of Economic Development Policies
If Part One is a broad profile of the local economies, then Part Two is a more focused examination of one or more economic development policies for the two locations.   This reflects the course's focus on both understanding how local economies work (Part One) and the ways in which one can intervene in local economies -- for better and for worse (Part Two). Some groups may decide to focus on a few specific programs, while others may decide to examine the broader scope of the city's programs overall. You may find it easier to give an overall summary of a smaller city's economic development strategy (such as for Ypsilanti), but better to focus on a few specific programs in a larger and more complex city (such as Los Angeles). Examples of specific programs/policies:
the politics and economics of a new casino;  the impact of a new sports stadium;  a micro-credit loan program;  a community development association;  a retraining program for unemployed auto workers;  a Main Street revitalization effort;  a dam project in a developing country;  etc. You might also examine the community's efforts to redefine and market itself.

Address the following (if relevant):

  • What were the main goals of the effort?
  • Was the effort successful?
  • Was it cost-effective?
  • What were the distributional impacts?
  • Who supported and/or opposed the effort and why?   (That is, what coalitions formed?)
  • What broader economic development assumptions did the effort draw upon (e.g., export-base theory, multipliers, linkages, human capital development, etc.)?
  • Can the effort be applied to other communities?


Sources of Data and Other Information
Use government statistics (take advantage of the U-M library resources and reference librarians, especially at the Graduate Library and their government documents collection on the second floor), class readings, any other readings you can find, newspaper stories, interviews, archives, etc.    (Be sure to properly cite any source materials.)   Good places to start are the reference librarians; ASI/SRI;  city planning offices (which often compile data);  US Census publications;  books and/or articles on the location.  Groups are encouraged to share information, sources, and creative ideas for documentation and presentation.
NOTE:   There may be gaps or other shortcomings in the data e.g., missing data;  inconsistent years.   This is common, and should not be seen as an obstacle.  But be sure to note these instances.

Here is a partial compilation of data sources.


A few aspects to consider:

dimensions of the data labor markets importing data from the web
1. time (single point in time, comparative statics, time-series)
2. space (geographic location: e.g., city, county, MSA, state, country) see UP504 discussion of US census geography
3. unit of analysis (e.g., person, household, firm, municipality) -- different data sets will use different units of analysis.
4. variables (e.g., annual income, age, occupation)

be sure to distinguish between employed residents (based on people who live in the city -- some of whom many commute to other cities) and local employees (people who work in the city -- some of whom many commute from other cities). For relatively closed labor markets (such as Hawaii) these two will be almost the same. But for more open economies (such as Ann Arbor), they will vary.

The US Census decennial census (e.g., 2000) collects data on where people live; the economic census generally collects data on where people work. (see Blakely and Bradshaw on this issue)

e.g., from html or pdf or text (ASCII) files

column delimited
space delimited
comma delimited

Format for Presentation
We have set aside two class sessions (April 14, 19) for presentations.  Depending on the total number of groups, each group will have about 15-20 minutes for formal presentations and to respond to questions.  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.)

With 10 groups, each group has 10 minutes (presentation) + 5 minutes (Q&A) = 15 minutes total. To ensure fairness across groups, I will strictly enforce time limits.

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.

What to turn in:
All groups should upload a copy of your report (either Word or pdf format) to ctools. Please also turn in a paper copy to me. (If you are out-of-town or otherwise a trip to north campus is problematic, you can instead email me a copy.)

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.