GY307      Half Unit
Regional Economic Development

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Michael Storper STC 4.07


This course is available on the BA in Geography, BSc in Economic History and Geography, BSc in Economics, BSc in Environment and Development, BSc in Environmental Policy with Economics and BSc in Geography with Economics. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

In 2016, politics were shaped by regional development. In Britain, certain regions voted to leave the European Union and others (Greater London, Scotland) to stay. In the American presidential election in November, 473 counties voted for the Democratic Party candidate and about 2600 counties voted for the Republican. However, the 473 counties contain more than 2/3 of the country’s economic output, a majority of its population, produce almost all of its technological innovations, have higher personal incomes, and are responsible for most of the country’s exports. This is because economic development is uneven across regions, within countries and at a wider global scale, between countries and continents. Over the past 40 years, in the current cycle of economic development that is defined by globalization and new technologies, these differences have become sharper, leading to more sharply divided politics in many countries.

The future of many countries depends on the future of their regional development patterns: where prosperity is located, how regions and their people transition in response to changing economic forces.

If we bring this down to the personal level, where you live matters for your opportunities, economic welfare and lifestyle. But places do not have a secure position in the world: they can go up or down the economic hierarchy and, with them, alter the opportunities or lack thereof for the people in them, as well as define opportunities or obstacles to migration. In cycles of about 40 years, the hierarchies of incomes among places can undergo significant change. Once prosperous places can decline; formerly less wealthy places can, under some conditions, develop, but only under the right conditions. Those that survive the cycles do so by changing their economic base and many other features of the local economy and society. With such change, the ways we live in places also evolves.

In 2009, the Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to Paul Krugman for founding what is now known as the “New Economic Geography.” Since then, researchers have assembled a powerful, unified vision of what causes cities, metropolitan areas, regions, and countries in the world to develop in a geographically uneven manner. This vision brings together theories of the location of firms and households, trade, local labor markets, transport and trade costs, and local development policies/politics, into a unified whole.

There are challenges today for both the “473” counties and the other 2600. Roughly speaking, the 473 have to keep doing things that have made them prosperous, but this is a moving target as technologies change, and patterns of competition change at a local and global scale. Moreover, even prosperous city-regions have internal challenges, such as poor neighborhoods or unequal opportunities for their people. The less prosperous “2600” counties have different challenges: they have been largely bypassed by the positive dimensions of globalization and technological change. Yet regional policies in the US and other countries have not been very successful in helping them adjust to the current world.

In this course, we will learn the theories, analytical tools and data that explain these issues and frame the challenges for development of both prosperous and less prosperous regions.


20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6.

Formative coursework

A variety of exercises including problems, reading analyses, use of examples that complement theoretical articles and so on.  We draw these up as close as possible to the term, or even during the term, in order to enhance the student experience by making the examples relevant and contemporary.

Indicative reading


Take home exam (100%) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills