IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Specialization and Regional Economic Development


  • Thomas Kemeny
  • Michael Storper


Debates about urban growth and change often center on specialization.However, arguments linking specialization to metropolitan economic development contain diverse, and sometimes conflicting, claims. Is it better to be highly specialized or diversified? Does specialization refer to the absolute scale of an activity in a region, its share within the regional economy, or its share in the nation's economy? Does specialization have static effects, or is its impact chiefly evolutionary? This paper starts by investigating these different theoretical claims. We then turn to an empirical inquiry into the roles of relative and absolute specialization. By analyzing local agglomerations over time, we find that growing absolute specialization is positively linked to wages, while changes in relative concentration are not significantly associated with wage dynamics. This supports notions of specialization based on the absolute size of an agglomeration, and casts doubt on notions of specialization based on shares of an activity in the regional economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Kemeny & Michael Storper, 2012. "Specialization and Regional Economic Development," SERC Discussion Papers 0121, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:sercdp:0121

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Enrico Moretti, 2010. "Local Multipliers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 373-377, May.
    2. Maryann Feldman & Ted D. Zoller, 2012. "Dealmakers in Place: Social Capital Connections in Regional Entrepreneurial Economies," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(1), pages 23-37, June.
    3. Cesar A. Hidalgo & Ricardo Hausmann, 2009. "The Building Blocks of Economic Complexity," Papers 0909.3890,
    4. Guy Dumais & Glenn Ellison & Edward L. Glaeser, 2002. "Geographic Concentration As A Dynamic Process," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 193-204, May.
    5. Hartog,Joop & Maassen van den Brink,Henriëtte (ed.), 2009. "Human Capital," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521117562, March.
    6. Combes, Pierre-Philippe & Duranton, Gilles & Overman, Henry G., 2005. "Agglomeration and the adjustment of the spatial economy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 675, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Keele, Luke & Kelly, Nathan J., 2006. "Dynamic Models for Dynamic Theories: The Ins and Outs of Lagged Dependent Variables," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(02), pages 186-205, March.
    8. Duranton, Gilles & Puga, Diego, 2004. "Micro-foundations of urban agglomeration economies," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics,in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 48, pages 2063-2117 Elsevier.
    9. Wolfson, Michael, 1997. "Divergent Inequalities - Theory and Empirical Results (Revised Edition)," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 1997066e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
    10. Ricardo Hausmann & Jason Hwang & Dani Rodrik, 2007. "What you export matters," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 1-25, March.
    11. Beaudry, Catherine & Schiffauerova, Andrea, 2009. "Who's right, Marshall or Jacobs? The localization versus urbanization debate," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 318-337, March.
    12. Andrew M. Isserman & James Westervelt, 2006. "1.5 Million Missing Numbers: Overcoming Employment Suppression in County Business Patterns Data," International Regional Science Review, , vol. 29(3), pages 311-335, July.
    13. Martin L. Weitzman, 1998. "Recombinant Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 331-360.
    14. Yankow, Jeffrey J., 2006. "Why do cities pay more? An empirical examination of some competing theories of the urban wage premium," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 139-161, September.
    15. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2002. "Political Economics: Explaining Economic Policy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262661314, July.
    16. Ciccone, Antonio & Hall, Robert E, 1996. "Productivity and the Density of Economic Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 54-70, March.
    17. C. A. Hidalgo & B. Klinger & A. -L. Barabasi & R. Hausmann, 2007. "The Product Space Conditions the Development of Nations," Papers 0708.2090,
    18. John M. Quigley, 1998. "Urban Diversity and Economic Growth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 127-138, Spring.
    19. Mark Doms & Eric J. Bartelsman, 2000. "Understanding Productivity: Lessons from Longitudinal Microdata," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 569-594, September.
    20. Attaran, Mohsen, 1986. "Industrial Diversity and Economic Performance in U.S. Areas," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 20(2), pages 44-54, July.
    21. Wheaton, William C. & Lewis, Mark J., 2002. "Urban Wages and Labor Market Agglomeration," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 542-562, May.
    22. Ellison, Glenn & Glaeser, Edward L, 1997. "Geographic Concentration in U.S. Manufacturing Industries: A Dartboard Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(5), pages 889-927, October.
    23. Ron Boschma & Simona Iammarino, 2009. "Related Variety, Trade Linkages, and Regional Growth in Italy," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 85(3), pages 289-311, July.
    24. Rosenthal, Stuart S. & Strange, William C., 2004. "Evidence on the nature and sources of agglomeration economies," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics,in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 49, pages 2119-2171 Elsevier.
    25. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    26. Stephen Bond, 2002. "Dynamic panel data models: a guide to microdata methods and practice," CeMMAP working papers CWP09/02, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    27. Glaeser, Edward L & Mare, David C, 2001. "Cities and Skills," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(2), pages 316-342, April.
    28. Feldstein, Martin, 2008. "Did wages reflect growth in productivity?," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 591-594.
    29. Patrizio Pagano & Fabiano Schivardi, 2003. "Firm Size Distribution and Growth," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 105(2), pages 255-274, June.
    30. Koen Frenken & Frank Van Oort & Thijs Verburg, 2007. "Related Variety, Unrelated Variety and Regional Economic Growth," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(5), pages 685-697.
    31. Pierre Philippe Combes & Gilles Duranton & Henry G. Overman, 2005. "Agglomeration and the adjustment of the spatial economy-super-§," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 84(3), pages 311-349, August.
    32. Feldstein, Martin, 2008. "Did Wages Reflect Growth in Productivity?," Scholarly Articles 2794832, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    33. Thomas Kemeny, 2011. "Are international technology gaps growing or shrinking in the age of globalization?," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 1-35, January.
    34. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2002. "Special Interest Politics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262571676, July.
    35. Arellano, Manuel & Honore, Bo, 2001. "Panel data models: some recent developments," Handbook of Econometrics,in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 53, pages 3229-3296 Elsevier.
    36. Wolfson, Michael C, 1997. "Divergent Inequalities: Theory and Empirical Results," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 43(4), pages 401-421, December.
    37. Miklos Koren & Silvana Tenreyro, 2003. "Diversification and development," Working Papers 03-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    38. Kevin Morgan, 1997. "The Learning Region: Institutions, Innovation and Regional Renewal," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(5), pages 491-503.
    39. Michael Storper & Allen J. Scott, 2009. "Rethinking human capital, creativity and urban growth," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(2), pages 147-167, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Nicola Cortinovis & Frank Oort, 2015. "Variety, economic growth and knowledge intensity of European regions: a spatial panel analysis," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 55(1), pages 7-32, October.
    2. An, Qian & Gordon, Peter & Moore II, James, 2014. "A note on commuting times and city size: Testing variances as well as means," The Journal of Transport and Land Use, Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota, vol. 7(2), pages 105-110.
    3. Martin Andersson & Johan P Larsson & Joakim Lundblad, 2015. "The Productive City Needs both - localization and urbanization economies across spatial scales in the city," ERSA conference papers ersa15p385, European Regional Science Association.

    More about this item


    Specialization; diversification; agglomeration economies; urban wages;

    JEL classification:

    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)
    • O21 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Planning Models; Planning Policy

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cep:sercdp:0121. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.