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Re-framing the urban blight problem with trans-disciplinary insights from ecological economics


  • Weaver, R.C.


Similar to circumstances in the field of economics, market fundamentalism dominates urban blight policy spaces in the U.S. despite criticisms of the paradigm. Unlike the unified alternative that ecological economics (EE) provides to conventional economic theory, however, disagreement over the meaning of “blight” has prevented a commonly held pre-analytic vision and policy agenda from forming in critical blight scholarship. This paper asserts that “applied EE” offers a framework in which to develop such a vision, and to strengthen the inchoate critical blight policy stream. We draw on the EE theory and concepts to argue that blight can be understood as a stock that accumulates in an urban system as a result of underinvestment into real property. Our conceptualization of the problem has several important implications for public policy. A brief illustration compares the relative efficacy of one city's characteristically neoliberal blight policies with more “EE-consistent” policies in a second city to show that the latter might in fact outperform the former.

Suggested Citation

  • Weaver, R.C., 2013. "Re-framing the urban blight problem with trans-disciplinary insights from ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 168-176.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:90:y:2013:i:c:p:168-176
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2013.03.009

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416-416.
    2. Common,Michael & Stagl,Sigrid, 2005. "Ecological Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521816458.
    3. G. E. Breger, 1967. "The Concept and Causes of Urban Blight," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(4), pages 369-376.
    4. Farley, Joshua & Baker, Daniel & Batker, David & Koliba, Christopher & Matteson, Richard & Mills, Russell & Pittman, James, 2007. "Opening the policy window for ecological economics: Katrina as a focusing event," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(2-3), pages 344-354, August.
    5. Common,Michael & Stagl,Sigrid, 2005. "Ecological Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521016704.
    6. Brueckner, Jan K. & Helsley, Robert W., 2011. "Sprawl and blight," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 205-213, March.
    7. Boezeman, Daan & Leroy, Pieter & Maas, Rob & Kruitwagen, Sonja, 2010. "The (limited) political influence of ecological economics: A case study on Dutch environmental policies," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(9), pages 1756-1764, July.
    8. Costanza, Robert & Stern, David & Fisher, Brendan & He, Lining & Ma, Chunbo, 2004. "Influential publications in ecological economics: a citation analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3-4), pages 261-292, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Russell Weaver, 2015. "A Cross-Level Exploratory Analysis of “Neighborhood Effects” on Urban Behavior: An Evolutionary Perspective," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(4), pages 1-21, November.
    2. Russell C. Weaver & Jason Knight, 2014. "Evolutionary Mismatch as a General Framework for Land Use Policy and Politics," Land, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(2), pages 1-20, June.
    3. Natalia Molina Cetrulo & Tiago Balieiro Cetrulo & Sylmara Lopes Francelino Goncalves-Dias & Rodrigo Martins Moreira, 2018. "Waste Management and Sustainability: Indicators under Ecological Economy Perspective," Journal of Management and Sustainability, Canadian Center of Science and Education, vol. 8(1), pages 20-30, March.
    4. Russell Weaver, 2016. "Evolutionary Theory and Neighborhood Quality: A Multilevel Selection-inspired Approach to Studying Urban Property Conditions," Applied Research in Quality of Life, Springer;International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies, vol. 11(2), pages 369-386, June.


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