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Regional Studies
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The Regional Economy, Spatial Structure and
Regional Urban Systems
John B. Parr

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School of Social and Political Sciences (Urban Studies) , University of Glasgow ,
Glasgow , G12 8QQ , UK E-mail:
Published online: 18 Jun 2013.

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To cite this article: John B. Parr (2013): The Regional Economy, Spatial Structure and Regional Urban Systems, Regional
Studies, DOI: 10.1080/00343404.2013.799759
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estructura espacial y sistemas urbanos regionales. which provide important points of reference.regionalstudies. Regionen Regionalwirtschaft Raumstruktur Regionale Stadtsysteme PARR J. Regional Studies. PARR School of Social and Political Sciences (Urban Studies). Regiones Economía regional JEL classifications: R.org Estructura espacial Sistemas urbanos regionales . B. et les systèmes urbano-régionaux. et on affirme que sa structure spatiale constitue un facteur important. Il s’ensuit un examen des particularités de l’économie régionale. the most comprehensive of which employs the perspective of an urban system.2013.uk Downloaded by [University of Winnipeg] at 17:07 04 September 2014 (Received July 2011: in revised form March 2013) PARR J. 2013 http://dx. dont la plus exhaustive est du point de vue d’un système urbain. et secundo dans le cadre de la cité-région d’aujourd’hui.799759 The Regional Economy. and it is argued that its spatial structure represents an important dimension. B. bei der umfassendsten dieser Methoden kommt die Perspektive eines Stadtsystems zum Einsatz. Esto se analiza en términos de modelos específicos de la teoría de la ubicación que ofrecen puntos de referencia importantes y luego en el entorno de la región metropolitana de hoy día. Régions Économie régionale Ossature spatiale Systèmes urbano-régionaux PARR J. La estructura espacial puede caracterizarse de varias formas. Anschließend werden die charakteristischen Merkmale der Regionalwirtschaft untersucht. Die Raumstruktur lässt sich auf vielfältige Weise charakterisieren.Parr@glasgow.1080/00343404. Regional Studies.Regional Studies. B. on porte une attention particulière dans un premier temps aux typologies de région plus connues. The regional economy. R1.doi. Regional Studies. attention is initially drawn to the better-known types of economic region. la structure spatiale. Raumstruktur und regionale Stadtsysteme. Spatial structure can be characterized in a variety of ways. A continuación se examina la naturaleza distintiva de la economía regional y se postula que su estructura espacial representa una dimensión importante. On l’examine primo à partir des modèles particuliers puisés dans la théorie de la localisation. 区域经济、空间结构与区域城市系统,区域研究。本文在着手处理区域城市系统的概念时,首先将关注较 为人所熟知的经济区域类型,接着将检视区域经济的特殊性,并主张其空间结构表现出一个重要的面向。空间结构 的特徵可依各种不同的方式描绘之,其中最为广泛的方式便是运用城市系统的视角。此将首先以区位理论中的特定 模型检视之,该理论提供了重要的参照依据,再者将置放在当今城市—区域的脉络中检视之。 区域 区域经济 空间结构 区域城市系统 PARR J. L’économie régionale. spatial structure and regional urban systems. Glasgow G12 8QQ. University of Glasgow. The distinctive nature of the regional economy is next examined. die wichtige Anhaltspunkte bieten. On peut caractériser la structure spatiale de différentes manières. B. und anschließend innerhalb der Umgebung der heutigen Stadtregion. prestamos atención a los tipos más conocidos de la región económica. Regionalwirtschaft. Regional Studies. Diese wird zunächst mit Hilfe bestimmter Modelle der Standorttheorie untersucht. qui fournissent d’importants points de repère. and then within the setting of the present-day city-region. This is examined firstly in terms of particular models from location theory. und es wird die These aufgestellt. B. Spatial Structure and Regional Urban Systems JOHN B. In dieser Untersuchung des Konzepts des regionalen Stadtsystems richtet sich der Augenmerk zunächst auf die bekannteren Typen der Wirtschaftsregion. Economía regional. Al analizar el concepto del sistema urbano regional. R12 © 2013 Regional Studies Association http://www.org/10. y la más completa de ellas emplea la perspectiva de un sistema urbano. dass es sich bei ihrer Raumstruktur um eine wichtige Dimension handelt. Email: John. Pour aborder la notion de système urbano-régional. UK. In approaching the concept of the regional urban system. Regions Regional economy Spatial structure Regional urban systems PARR J.ac.

etc. and programming (that is. THE ECONOMIC REGION The notion of the economic region is a relatively new one. crop cultivation regions and manufacturing regions represented early examples. Each is sufficiently substantial as to merit separate treatment. which is influenced by the course of economic and social change. the urban-system view of spatial structure takes on a particular significance in the case of the city-region. A general characteristic of the nodal region is the pronounced interdependence (direct and indirect) between the core and the hinterland (HOOVER and FISHER . Although cityregions display a diversity of forms. The discussion proceeds as follows. the disciplinary tradition dies hard! In order to simplify the argument. but also in terms of income levels. the core and the hinterland may contain economic activities that are primarily related to areas beyond the region. where agricultural regions. both within the individual nation and among nations. In the following discussion the perspective adopted will be largely of an economic character. He argued that for the purpose of economic analysis the following typology was useful: homogeneous (or uniform) regions. not simply with respect to trade. Second. the urban system is an especially appropriate perspective. the nodal region is composed of two components: the core or node and the hinterland. in understanding the significance of regional spatial structure. important aspects of a political. which would comprise its market area. Such a synthesis has yet to emerge. the core can be seen as a point of demand on the part of households or firms for goods and services produced in the hinterland which would function as its supply area. which collectively form the background motivation for this examination of regional urban systems. with opinion sharply divided. probably because these are thought to have little relevance in a world that has undergone rapid economic and technological change during the last sixty years. despite the upsurge of interest in the region within the social sciences over recent decades (STORPER . To a large extent such frameworks tend to be overlooked. The nodal region. policy-related) regions. After briefly surveying several forms of economic region. sociological and institutional nature are not emphasized. These provide a platform for examining conditions within the city-region. As a consequence. 2009). More refined definitions subsequently appeared. In both cases. since it is able to incorporate a number of different approaches. Reduced to its essentials. by contrast. is based on the internal structure of its economy. The core may represent a service centre or point of supply for the hinterland. and the weaknesses of such a restriction are acknowledged. nodal regions. the major concern will be with conditions in nations of the economically developed world. migration. It is not to be seen simply as an element of a disaggregated national economy: the region contains an internal spatial structure of varying complexity. attention is drawn to the regional economy and the importance of spatial structure in its operation and development.1 . Alternatively and/or additionally. however. and which by implication is distinguishable from other regions. Fourth.John B. There can be no question that the regional urban system occupies a prominent position within market economies. A preliminary classification A useful starting point in any discussion of modern-day economic regions is the tripartite classification proposed by MEYER (1963). not recognizing perhaps that this very flexibility may be a source of imprecision. capital movements. a major feature of the contemporary economic landscape. however. an increasingly important feature of the national space economy. commuting. striking commonalities are revealed when city-regions are seen through the prism of the urban system. In this connection much is to be gained from visiting or revisiting those branches of location theory concerned with urban systems. 2008). Parr 2 Downloaded by [University of Winnipeg] at 17:07 04 September 2014 INTRODUCTION The intention of the following discussion is to consider some of the more important aspects of the urban system within the context of a regional economy. with the initial focus on particular location-theory frameworks. Others (probably representing the majority view) embrace the concept as a flexible and therefore convenient spatial scale that lends itself to a wide variety of interpretations and applications. First. Third. The comments to follow are based on four interrelated propositions. the concept of the region remains shrouded in uncertainty. 1995). The regions proposed by OHLIN (1933) and by NORTH (1955) fall into this category (PARR . 1949). The nature of the urban system is next examined. the regional economy represents a particular scale of economic organization. and under ideal circumstances these various strands would be drawn together. The homogeneous region probably comes closest to the popular view of an economic region as a space throughout which there is a similarity of economic characteristics. It came to be used during the 1920s in the United States within the fields of agricultural economics and economic geography. but which may also exert an influence over such change. in much the same manner that the metropolitan area came to play a comparable role during the course of the nineteenth century. Some view the concept of the region as an inherently vague one that defies precise definition (WREN . The nature of the regional economy can only be fully appreciated if there is adequate scrutiny of its spatial dimension.

and the concept was also examined in considerable depth by BOGUE (1950). and resource development declining in relative importance. regions based on river basins have tended to lose much of their significance in the organization of space. the hinterland. Spatial Structure and Regional Urban Systems MEYER ’s (1963) third type of region – the policy region – represents a space over which an official body exercises a jurisdiction in the implementation of a particular policy. sometimes of considerable extent. and most academic discussions of the region are concerned with one of the three types. usually giving rise to a well-developed pattern of interaction among the centres. but this characterization would fail to capture certain key facets of such a region. because of such trends as rail and road communications replacing waterways. decision-making and communications. Birmingham. Denver. consider the case of the nodal region. Durham. There is a case for regarding this as a homogeneous region. Chapel Hill) of North Carolina in the United States. To emphasize this point. p.The Regional Economy. and is taken to be either the central municipality of an urban area or the entire urban area. Note that the presence of clustered urban centres is a necessary. tended to regard the hinterland in general terms as an area dominated by the core. The term ‘city-region’ appears to have been first used by DICKINSON (1947). An important aspect of the PUR is the extent to which it is integrated. by which smaller urban centres would be able to benefit from their proximity to a larger centre (ALONSO . While this could represent an existing political or administrative unit. 2006). Under no circumstances.. There is a degree of overlap between the three types of region. . and Boston. Kansas City. 1973). which is often used in labour-market analysis. Simultaneously. Whereas Dickinson and Duncan et al. Variation in scale and hierarchical structure It will be apparent that each of the regional types discussed above may display a considerable variation in territorial extent or relative scale. largely on the grounds of its overwhelming urban character. These two 3 forms of integration are not specific to the PUR. so that a given regional type may be seen as occupying a particular position along a continuum. and the Research Triangle (Raleigh. 2003). should the city-region be viewed as a closed system or selfsufficient entity. The core is regarded as a centre of employment. a question recently explored in the case of Randstad by BURGER and MEIJERS (2012). a sub-national unit comparable with those based on urban concentrations (and not simply their political cities) such as Barcelona. MEIJERS et al. On the other hand.2 Relevant here was the concept of ‘borrowed size’. (1960) used the expression ‘metropolitan region’. Bordeaux. the FUR has a core–hinterland structure. Bogue referred to it as the ‘metropolitan community’. the PUR represented an area containing a cluster of urban centres. and each of which had one or more specializations. and is increasingly associated with the provision of services involving recreation. One is the region based on a watershed or river basin (KRUTILLA and ECKSTEIN . 2002). Examples include the Ruhr District of Germany. Toward the other end of the continuum of nodal regions is the major city-region. often forming the basis for a political or administrative boundary. However. 2003. Various methods have been used to define this type of FUR. One method is to include each municipality in the hinterland if it has a minimum number of jobs per hectare. Seattle and Vancouver in North America. if at least a certain percentage of its workforce is employed in the core. none of which had a pronounced dominance over the others. amenity and retirement. This has also been referred to as the ‘dispersed city’ (BURTON . which contains an urban as well as a rural population. This tripartite classification of regions is a common one. both morphologically and functionally. and mention is made of two other regional types. As with all nodal regions. 1963) and ‘network city’ (BATTEN . however. 1958). and somewhat later DUNCAN et al. 1994). supplies the node with agricultural goods. to the extent that there may be a dominant pattern of agricultural land uses. this percentage being as low as 10% in a study of European FURs (BRUNEL . Again. the policy region could be based on a homogeneous region or a nodal region. Another regional type not fitting comfortably within the Meyer classification is the ‘polycentric urban region’ (PUR) (DAVOUDI . Randstad in the Netherlands. particularly since it invariably has extensive interregional as well as international linkages. it might also be a special-purpose region such as the area of operation of the Appalachia Regional Commission in the United States. condition for the existence of a PUR. As originally proposed. as well a provider of goods and services to the hinterland. 15). Milan and Munich in Western Europe. Here the core is represented by a larger city or metropolitan area that acts as an important centre of ownership. there is a case for regarding the PUR as a homogeneous region. A less sophisticated method is to include a hinterland municipality. Downloaded by [University of Winnipeg] at 17:07 04 September 2014 Other regional types The Meyer classification is incomplete. and may be applied to other types of economic region. and if there are more commuters travelling to the relevant core than to any other (CHESHIRE and HAY . the river has been regarded as a barrier to interaction. though not a sufficient. however. For example. 1989. Toward the lower end of the continuum there exists the ‘functional urban region’ (FUR) (KARLSSON and OLSSEN . raw materials. and semi-manufactured or finished goods as inputs to production. while the hinterland consists of a series of directly or indirectly adjacent municipalities. as Meyer clearly recognized.

While this would not constitute a problem in the supply of goods and services by the private sector (nor. the secondary city-region could not form the basis of a secondary administrative region. the gross regional product (corresponding to the gross national product) is equal to the sum of gross domestic product and net external payments. together with the existence of economies of scale in production. While under certain conditions it is possible for a region to pursue a fiscal policy. social accounts provide important information on the regional economy. with attention given to the size-frequency structure of urban centres. and are vulnerable to competition from successful regions. involving exchange-rate adjustment. Associated with this relative openness of the regional economy is the high level of interregional factor movement. These particular strengths do not. the nature of the problems being addressed. To a greater extent than is possible with other types of region. this hierarchical arrangement of economic regions could form the basis of a two-tier system of administration. Perhaps the most fundamental difference between the regional economy and the national economy lies within the area of economic sovereignty. and as a result the region cannot follow an external economic policy. it is unable to pursue a meaningful macro-economic policy. THE REGIONAL ECONOMY AND ITS SPATIAL STRUCTURE The economic region (whatever its type) has a number of similarities with the economy of the nation.John B. the kinds of research issues being investigated. the nodal region (in its various forms) is able to provide insights into the operation of its economy over space and into the spatial interrelations of the various elements of this economy. however. Thus. As with the national economy. Nevertheless. the more likely will be the validity of this alternative interpretation. it would pose a problem for the spatial structure of administration. rents. Similarly. with the scale specified as appropriate. a tendency that partially explains the presence of problem regions. and payments made to the central government. the temporal fluctuations of the regional economy (with respect to the length and amplitude of the trade cycle) can be expected to differ from those of the national economy. This differentiation of a given type of region may also be viewed in hierarchical terms. (2010) may be cited as examples. this will depend on a number of factors. etc. By contrast. Under actual conditions. simply because the region lacks the ability to issue currency. it is not unusual for a secondary city-region to straddle the boundary between two (sometimes three) primary cityregions. however. that is. Even if the region has a government or administration (and this is the exception rather than the rule). 2007). particularly in the case of capital and skilled labour. the emphasis will be on the nodal region. more generally. some variant of the nodal region appears to have become the most useful and the most commonly employed. including the scale of the area being studied. minus comparable payments made by residents and firms to outside the region. In the balance of the paper. The work of MUSTERD and VAN ZELM (2001) and VAN OORT et al. As an economic unit the region typically represents a small. each based on a major centre of the supposed PUR. situated within some primary cityregion (of a scale similar to that indicated above). From time to time it is argued that what is deemed to be a PUR might be better viewed as a series of city-regions. the dividends. of course. These are unable to capitalize on their comparative advantage. the prerogative of taxation and expenditure has been increasingly surrendered to (or . Such a characteristic. Parr Downloaded by [University of Winnipeg] at 17:07 04 September 2014 4 Bogue examined the structure of the hinterland in more detail. The relative openness of the regional economy is reflected by the fact that exports (visible and invisible) from the region usually account for a greater proportion of its gross domestic product than is the case for the nation in which the region is located. open economy. since this would be run counter to a fundamental tenet of political organization. Continuing with the example of a nodal region. In addition. Here the position of the region is greatly constrained. the economic performance of the region in terms of the growth rate of income or employment is likely to be above or below that of the nation. the FUR may represent a secondary city-region. In particular. In output terms the gross domestic product of a region (corresponding to the gross domestic product of the nation) is the value of all goods and services produced within a region. the obvious question arises as to which is the most appropriate type. For example. causes trade among regions to take place on the basis of absolute advantage. which requires that a secondary unit must be wholly contained within a primary unit (PARR . It can be expected that the greater the territorial extent of the PUR. Having considered the principal forms of economic region. Against these similarities between regional and national economies need to be set the equally important differences. amount to a rejection of other types of region in all circumstances. an obstacle to the efficient functioning of the relevant regional economies). In view of the obvious advantage in having a political or governmental region coincide with an economic region. The penultimate section of this paper will return to the concept of the city-region. depending inter alia on the sectoral composition of its economy and the performance of its individual sectors. wages received by residents and firms of the region from outside the region and transfers from the central government. the divergence between gross domestic product of the region and gross regional product is usually more pronounced than the divergence at the national level. Unsurprisingly. there can be no monetary policy.

scope and complexity (OHLIN . PARR . which in turn will differ from the spatial structure of a regional economy reliant on engineering and other fabricative manufacturing. The contrasting spatial structures are likely to be influenced by a number of factors. unemployment. The limiting effects of this lack of economic sovereignty are mitigated to some extent by the existence of interregional financial transfers from the relatively prosperous regions to the relatively poor regions. so that spatial structure exerts an influence on the level of economic activity. for example). and referred to it as räumliche Ordnung (spatial order or spatial ordering). It is seldom the case that an existing spatial structure of a region has emerged tabula rasa. while dynamic agglomeration economies draw attention to their influence on innovation and productivity. These include the orientation of economic activity (to markets. 2008). and the land available for industrial or . For example. a region with an economy based on extensive commercial agriculture will have a different spatial structure from that of a region with an economy dependent on extractive industries and the processing of raw materials. that is. etc. raw materials. One fairly obvious approach is to view spatial structure as a series of areal distributions. in addition. These transfers are orchestrated by the central government (sometimes according to strict formulae). energy sources. if for technological and/or transport-cost reasons the locational requirements of the economic activities forming part of the regional export base were to undergo a substantial change. etc. For example. and have the effect of partially offsetting the lack of competitiveness of the problem regions and the absence of adequate interregional mobility of parts of the workforce. Downloaded by [University of Winnipeg] at 17:07 04 September 2014 The question of spatial organization By the same token that the regional economy displays a variation over time (in terms of economic development and trade-cycle fluctuation. an aspect considered in the following section. Characterizing spatial structure After considering the significance of spatial structure within the regional economy. The problem here is that the spatial structure may not be able to respond adequately to these changed conditions. Spatial structure highlights the fact that the regional economy does not operate at a single point and is not evenly distributed over space. the actual spatial structure of a region representing a configuration intermediate between these two extremes. an influence that may be positive or negative. however. the spatial structure of the regional economy. In addition to the locational pattern of economic activity and infrastructure endowment (including communications and other elements of economic and social overhead capital). energy sources. innovation and creativity. The relationship between economic activity and spatial structure may operate in the opposite direction. continued operation of these activities might require an identifiably different spatial structure.) and the strength of agglomeration economies. These would involve such major aggregates of the regional economy as population. There is. Lösch (LÖSCH /WOGLOM and STOLPER .The Regional Economy. Spatial Structure and Regional Urban Systems usurped by) a higher authority. 1944/1954) regarded this latter type of variation as anything but random. A useful distinction is sometimes made between static and dynamic agglomeration economies: static agglomeration economies are generally concerned with the efficient locations of firms under a given set of economic conditions. Successful economic performance appears to be associated with a range of significantly different spatial structures. spatial structure is concerned with the organization and functioning of markets for goods and factors of production. 2002a). Considerable debate has taken place on the net advantages of different spatial structures. these may exist at inappropriate locations and/or in insufficient quantities to be attractive to domestic or external sources of capital that would otherwise be invested within the region. although no consensus has been reached. the various ways in which spatial structure can be specified are now briefly reviewed. raw materials. 1933. a more general factor in operation. leading to the growth of 5 particular cities within a region or nation (GLAESER . it can also act as an important influence on the nature and the level of such activity. as will be argued in a later section. workforce. thus inhibiting the continued existence of the dominant economic-activity set. based on the advantages of scale. it also exhibits a variation across space. The influence of a pre-existing spatial structure on regional economic performance need not be adverse. usually the central or federal government (in the UK the recent publicfinance proposals for Scotland and Northern Ireland are something of an exception to this trend). and on occasions may be positive. The spatial structure of a region may thus be conducive to improved productivity. In certain cases the areal distribution of fixed investment. and possibly preventing the emergence of replacement economic activity that might be viably located within the region. Although adequate supplies of labour and elements of infrastructure are available within the region. It becomes evident that while the spatial structure may be seen as a reflection of regional economic activity. This concerns the fact that the spatial structure at a given point in time will be determined to a substantial degree by the spatial structure that existed during the preceding era of economic development. The spatial structure of a region may be seen as reflecting the locational characteristics of economic activities located there. employment. It is sometimes neutral. as well as its ability to adjust to external shocks. both internal and external to the firm.

John B. and also includes other approaches already mentioned. attention is first given to several important models developed in location theory. A particular type of surface is the density function. The various goods and services can be grouped to form N sets. capital movements. but also as the means by which working hypotheses can be generated. and takes place at points centrally located within their respective market areas. commuter flows. consumer services. centred on the regional core (BOGUE . Additional methods of characterizing regional spatial structure are worthy of mention. the output of certain types of manufacturing such as job printing.3 Although not without a number of precursors. 1955). and attempts to formulate a structure which reflects this. 1950. Such a view of spatial structure is concerned with the hierarchical differentiation of centres in terms of their size. One of these involves city-size distributions in terms of population and employment (LASUEN et al. transport and communications. starting with the Christaller framework (CHRISTALLER /BASKIN . it is possible to introduce a level 0 set of goods. REGIONAL URBAN SYSTEMS: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND In considering the internal structure of a region in terms of an urban system.. urbansystem models contain a simplicity or starkness. as well as numerous repair. Models of the urban system can thus be employed not only as benchmarks in the examination of actual conditions. and in varying degrees is sensitive to distance from the point of supply. etc. The Christaller urban system The Christaller contribution model was based on an empirical study of the central places of Southern Germany in the 1920s. and various kinds of food processing. MALECKI . The construction of a model of the urban system requires many variables to be held constant. the demand for all central goods is dispersed. therefore. certain of the interrelations among these various elements could be analyzed with the aid of geographical information systems (GIS) and the application of spatial statistics. First. attention is now focused on several models of the urban system. newspaper production. the Christaller framework was an early attempt at viewing the urban system as a set of hierarchically differentiated service centres. notably the economic flows among centres and their size distributions. telephone connections. maintenance and engineering services. Undoubtedly. making use of the extensive literature on network analysis. Second. minerals and other raw materials. frequency and functional composition. Parr Downloaded by [University of Winnipeg] at 17:07 04 September 2014 6 commercial development may also be included. which includes agricultural commodities. foodstuffs. It is also possible to view the spatial structure of the region as a set of flows among specified locations within the region. rural areas. central goods include wholesaling. 1968. With these considerations in mind. KRUMBEIN . that is. 1959). Though usually employed at the scale of a metropolitan area. As with models in general. This urban-system perspective on the spatial structure will be explored in the next two sections. business and financial services. each of which may be regarded as a composite good of level m where m = 1. Although not undertaken by Christaller. the most comprehensive characterization of spatial structure makes use of an urban-system perspective. In the case of intermediate demand (that is. VINING . N. 2. Unfortunately. which not all researchers in the area find acceptable. Structure of the Christaller urban system Four major influences underlie the form of the Christaller urban system. the density function may also be applied at the scale of the region. an important perspective if the concern is with dynamic spatial structure. whether private or public. spacing. The Christaller urban system is concerned exclusively with ‘central goods’ which are supplied to a dispersed market. a model of the urban system is an abstraction. each being a Landstadt or regional city). which is not intended to replicate reality. the supply of these goods is closely related to this demand. Inevitably. 1967. an early example being the work of GARRISON (1960). …. 1980). This is considered in some detail since it will be the standard against which other models are compared. This approach would not simply be concerned with inventories of the various elements. Nuremberg and Stuttgart. each of these ‘central places’ having one or more exclusive market areas to which the various goods and services were supplied. the demand exerted by firms). the lack of reliable data on these flows often makes it necessary to rely on surrogate flows such as those relating to shopping trips. An important category of intraregional flows involves those that can be expressed in economic terms such as trade flows (transactions among firms as well as those between firms and households). It seeks to explore the processes by which particular variables are related or interrelated. etc. and (where relevant) transfers of funds to and from the regional government. often involving the imposition of strong (even heroic) assumptions. 1933/1966). and which are provided by the public sector as well as the private sector. storage. and which is supplied only from level 0 of the hierarchy.. Another approach treats spatial structure as a surface (HAGGETT . The frequency of these points (and thus . wages and salaries paid by firms to commuters. freight traffic.4 In terms of household demand the central goods involve retail goods. This grouping is based on the frequency of points required for the viable supply. The primary focus was on three regions (the L-systems centred on Munich.

Thus. whether in the same set or different sets. N levels of market area and N sets of goods (as defined above). but also in the case of goods belonging to different sets. these restrictions on the pattern of trade (though logical in terms of the assumptions of the model) represent an inadequacy of the Christaller structure in the context of the modern conditions. Finally. the Christaller model places an excessive premium on proximity. A balance-of-payments problem does not arise. More specifically. both with respect to goods within a given set. and the resulting pattern of variable centre spacing is obviously more in keeping with actual conditions. the greater the size of its characteristic market area. and imports from centres of levels m + 1 to N. As will be argued. Under actual conditions. A centre of level m < N. The existence of this successively inclusive hierarchy places a limitation on the number and the sizes of the various market areas. This advantage tends to increase with hierarchical level. the greater its population. This even spacing stems from the underlying assumption of a uniform density of rural population. this is always from the nearest centre of level m or higher. and (because of this) the lower the frequency of such centres and the wider their spacing. the centre of level m supplies sets 1 to m to itself and to its market areas of levels 1 to m. The reasons for this pattern may be explained as follows. Since these higherlevel centres can assumed to be self-sufficient in such goods. These four influences give rise to an urban system in which there is a correspondence between spatial demand and spatial supply. but it also permits suppliers to benefit from agglomeration economies of the urbanization type such as access to infrastructure and public utilities. so that there is no basis for imports to this centre from centres of levels 1 to m – 1.5 A prominent feature of the Christaller urban system is the successively inclusive hierarchy.6 It also implies a distinctive pattern of trade among centres. Consideration of goods with other orientations is excluded. It is assumed that there are N levels of centre. nor for a firm failing to select the closest relevant centre. in order to buy a particular style of clothing or brand of consumer good. available everywhere at approximately equal cost. A third influence reflects the propensity of consumers to minimize travel costs. although it is likely to be partially offset by increasing location rents. For a level 1 centre the characteristic market area is wholly rural (part of level 0). A further deficiency is concerned with the directional pattern of trade. Such an assumption is easily dispensed with. there is no basis for exports from the centre of level m to centres of higher levels. is not supplied by) a centre of a lower level. but these same goods are also exported from centres of level m + 1 to N. a centre of level 1 < m < N exports to centres of levels 1 to m – 1. in order to obtain an input to production. and the wages and salaries associated with commuting. centres of level m are evenly 7 spaced on a triangular or some alternative lattice (strictly speaking. By similar reasoning there is no basis for trade among different centres of level m. the balance-of-payments problem is also avoided by the existence of non-trade flows such as capital movements. Another weakness of the model is that it wholly neglects the input structure of production: it is as if all inputs to production are ubiquitous. is exporting goods of levels 1 to m. respectively. reasonably enough. Thus. a centre of a given level does not export to (that is. where centrality with respect to the consuming market (whether comprising households or firms) is of paramount importance. government expenditures. supply) a centre of a higher level. The fourth influence is the tendency of suppliers of a given good to be drawn to the location of suppliers of other goods. Spatial Structure and Regional Urban Systems market areas) depends on transport costs borne by the consumer and on economies of scale in the production of the good in question. The successively inclusive hierarchy is such that a centre of level m supplies a characteristic set m. In addition.Downloaded by [University of Winnipeg] at 17:07 04 September 2014 The Regional Economy. for example. At the same time this centre of level m < N is self sufficient in goods of levels 1 to m – 1. by engaging in multipurpose trips. The overall structure of the Christaller system may be summarized with respect to centres belonging to any given level: the higher the level of a centre. and does not import from (that is. when a centre (or a location in a rural area) is supplied with a good of a given level m. a consequence of the successively inclusive hierarchy). although this correspondence is not of the same strength for all sets of goods. that is. the greater the number of sets of goods supplied from it. . Perhaps the most serious of these is the fact that attention is confined to goods and services of a market-orientated nature.7 Such a requirement results from the assumption that demand for goods and services is extremely sensitive to distance. up to and including) m – 1. that centres of particular levels are being supplied with the level 0 goods from level 0 (rural areas). the even spacing of level m centres refers to all centres of levels m to N. To some extent this is determined by the previous influence. No allowance is made for a person travelling to a centre other than the nearest relevant one. Thus. while the characteristic market area of a centre of level m > 1 consists of a rural component (part of level 0) plus particular centres (of decreasing frequency) belonging to levels 1 to level m – 1. as demonstrated by RUSHTON (1972). Limitations of the system While the Christaller structure is able to reflect several important facets of actual urban systems. it nevertheless contains a number of serious weaknesses. if it is assumed. together with sets 1 to (that is. where its level m market area represents the ‘characteristic market area’.

The economic region derived by Lösch contains three major features not present in the Christaller structure. although the analysis contains too many inconsistencies and contradictions for such a result to be accepted. so that attention could be focused on spatial structure. What the Tinbergen model does illustrate. but only to the extent that a centre of level m supplies goods of levels 1 to m to itself. N levels of centre. 1982). Second. of the requirement of centrality. despite the fact that this centre would be supplying the level m – 1 good to itself. a case in which the number of market-area sizes is limited by the number of levels of political or administrative organization. …. Third. we may consider a household or firm within a rural area in the immediate vicinity of a centre of level m. The centre-rich sectors of adjacent regions form the bases for transport axes between pairs of neighbouring metropolitan centres. In the case of a single good the spatial equilibrium is specified for each identical firm in terms of price. and from which extend six centre-rich sectors and six centre-poor sectors. no consideration was given to the location of inputs. 1968) stands in contrast to the Christaller–Lösch tradition. It is also consistent with the presence of agglomeration economies of the localization type (ISARD . the centres have a wider diversity of functional complexity and therefore a greater range of population sizes (STOLPER . As far as exports are concerned. The work of TINBERGEN (1961. and also a distinctive pattern of trade (MULLIGAN . instead of imposing the successively inclusive hierarchy in the manner of Christaller. Lösch (LÖSCH /WOGLOM and STOLPER . 1956). First. However. These factors suggest that the model is best suited to explaining the location of intermediate goods that have a particular input supply. . The analysis was then extended to examine the outcome for all goods. This explanation for the common phenomenon of inter-metropolitan corridors is imaginative. the regional economic landscape is dominated by a single metropolitan centre. namely. although it is not at all obvious how such a pattern could be sustained in a market economy. No balance-of-payments problem arises. The objective of the Lösch analysis was to construct from first principles a regional landscape of production points. 1944/ 1954) to provide the micro-economic underpinnings of the Christaller model. 130–131) was aware of the Christaller urban system. TINBERGEN (1968. This is consistent with the observed tendency for certain industries to be located at particular size classes of centre. This considers N goods (or N sets of goods). the supply of a good to a particular location was always from the nearest relevant centre. In this multi-good setting the primary concern was with minimizing the overall number of production points. To appreciate this. pp. Moreover. but not the abandonment. What emerged was a continuous economic landscape in which an economic region could be identified. Interestingly. increasing returns to scale in production. the level m good. This outcome for a single good is broadly equivalent to that in the Christaller structure. and spatial competition among suppliers under conditions of free entry. a general comment is included. and regarded this as a special case of his own more complex system. By the assumptions of the model this rural location would be supplied with a level m – 1 good from the nearest centre of level m – 1. Obviously. and not from the closer centre of level m. It will be observed that each model treats the urban system as existing within an unchanging equilibrium. which is supplied from the rural area (level 0) to the rest of the system. 2. output and market-area radius. The approach involved the analysis of demand over space with freight-on-board (FOB) pricing. comprising part of level 0 (the rural area) and centres of levels 1 to m – 1. In several important respects the Lösch approach was similar to the Christaller model: attention was confined to central goods (though there is more concern with manufactured goods). The principal reason for this is that in the development of these models it was convenient for time to be held constant. within an actual regional urban system it is debateable whether centre-rich sectors gave rise to transport corridors or whether the causation was in the reverse direction. Parr The economic region of Lösch The Tinbergen contribution It fell to Lösch (LÖSCH /WOGLOM and STOLPER . is that centres of level m of the hierarchy have a particular export specialization. 1944/1954. This assumption results in an arrangement of centres and market areas different from that in the Christaller system. offered an alternative structure. As with the Christaller model any centre of a level m < N only exports to lower levels and only imports from higher levels. Also included is a level 0 good. where the input is supplied from level 0 or from a higher-level centre. the centre of level m only supplies the level m good to its single market area (its level m market area). as well as N levels of market area (where m = 1. regarding a particular aspect of the models outlined above. from which all goods are supplied. Before moving to the next section. giving rise to an urban system. 1955). however.Downloaded by [University of Winnipeg] at 17:07 04 September 2014 8 John B. since it is specifically assumed that there exists a rural area (level 0). which exports the level 0 good to one or more of the urban levels of the hierarchy. who was apparently unimpressed with previous attempts at modelling the urban system. p. Such a pattern indicates a relaxation. Tinbergen introduced a successively inclusive hierarchy that resembled the Christaller structure. N). a relatively small centre (one supplying few goods) can export to a large centre (one supplying relatively many). that is. 65). Lösch allowed a wider variation in market-area size. however.

with the number of sets of goods supplied corresponding to the number of market areas being served. Consumer accessibility continues to be important for many goods. commonly supply particular non-central or specialized goods (to national and international markets). however. it is important to consider some of the changing external forces that have continued to shape it. Centres of medium-to-high levels. etc. The decades following the Second World War experienced considerable economic expansion. ISARD . EVANS . and may thus be subject to change. if these are reworked in dynamic terms or as multi-static models. The remainder of this section will be concerned with the urban system of the major city-region. 1941).8 One such feature is the size. This is largely a reflection of the co-location of firms. It will be recalled that in the urban system of Christaller the location of all non-rural economic activity is governed exclusively by the principle of centrality with respect to the location of demand. the predominant location of these kinds of economic activities is in urban centres. 1956). to major ports and international airports. substantial increases in the international movement of capital. As a consequence a given level of urban centre only supplies central goods. etc. 1968). Although the major concern has been with the internal factors influencing the organization of a regional urban system. In the case of non-central goods the locational orientation of production or supply is not primarily to the market but variously to sources of raw materials and manufactured inputs.The Regional Economy. innovation and modernization. particularly in terms of the hierarchical structure of urban centres. Over virtually any period of economic history during the last two to three hundred years. there is a tendency (consistent with the Tinbergen analysis) for certain activities to be associated with particular levels of the urban system. as discussed above. that is. in excess of 10 000 people (ULLMAN . being partially obscured by the supply of non-central goods. for example. only three of these had centre populations that could be considered urban in any practical sense. to supplies of skilled or semi-skilled labour. changed patterns of corporate ownership and control both nationally and internationally. Although Christaller identified seven hierarchical 9 levels of centre. shifts in consumer preferences. 2002a). it is not surprising that more intricate patterns of interaction are present. This tendency is not present in all city-regions. But despite such a dramatic modification of the general economic environment the regional urban system endured. which distinguishes the cityregion from other types of region. the present-day hierarchy of urban centres typically consists of three or four levels. This is as true in the present era as it was in the nineteenth century. overall improvements in living standards. 1970. but its influence is no longer as decisive as in the past. Spatial Structure and Regional Urban Systems urban systems can be expected to become modified over time. a range of business and commercial services. and none of the models discussed can be considered inherently stationary. in addition to central goods (largely to regional markets). as well as numerous specialized consumer services. 2002b). vastly different patterns of international trade (not only in terms of volume. These various changes exerted an influence (direct as well as indirect) on regional economies. suggesting that the relevant firms benefit from agglomeration economies of the localization type (BERRY and HORTON . the rise of steam power and the expansion of overseas trade. in order to gain agglomeration economies. Non-central or specialized goods comprise a highly diverse and evolving group of activities. With some exceptions. though inevitably in a modified form. For the modern city-region this pattern tends to hold for centres of lower levels. however. Economic flows within the city-region Since the nature of economic activity and its overall locational pattern in the modern city-region are more complex than in the Christaller structure. Improved mobility and the extension of product differentiation have meant that supply from the nearest relevant centre is no longer a . not all of which were originally presented by their authors in an explicit manner. spacing and frequency of centres. but also with respect to the location of markets and sources of supply). The various attempts along these lines are discussed elsewhere (PARR . a wide array of manufacturing industry. 1972. It will be argued shortly that the structure of the hierarchy is not immutable. which saw the continuation of the Industrial Revolution. The successively inclusive hierarchy continues to be present. the apparent static bias of the models is largely overcome. However. urban systems have been undergoing transformations. and this cannot be emphasized strongly enough. The location of economic activity within the city-region The urban system of the major city-region typically possesses certain features of the L-system of Christaller. In addition. Associated with these developments were fundamental changes in the technologies of production and communications. affected in part by external conditions. Moreover. the PUR. Downloaded by [University of Winnipeg] at 17:07 04 September 2014 REGIONAL URBAN SYSTEMS: THE CONTEMPORARY CITY-REGION In the light of these theoretical approaches to the urban system. it is now possible to explore the extent to which the models are able to cast light on the modern-day city-region. (BECKMANN . but it is less clearly defined. which includes mineral exploitation. not simply of the urbanization type but also of the activitycomplex type (PARR . for example.

up to which time the metropolitan core grew at a faster rate than its hinterland in terms of population. In recent decades. however. the urban system of a city-region is subject to the effects of external as well as internal change.. while in a further case there is complete disappearance of a level. Of particular interest here is the extent to which information flows are sensitive to distance. There is. there is a process of self-adjustment on the part of the system. Of relevance at the national level is the location of a city-region in relation to other city-regions. hard to measure and not readily interpreted (HALL . regardless of their respective locations with the city-region. It is also possible for centres of approximately the same level to trade with each other. is transformed. which takes place over the short-to-medium run. some upper limit on the daily distance travelled between centres (whether between levels or within a level). Parr requirement. adjustments of this kind are possible. And in the case of trade among firms. It not only allows the separation between residence and workplace. but there is an increase in flows among centres within the hinterland. an individual good may now need to be supplied from fewer centres or from more centres. Under these conditions it is certainly possible for a low-level centre to export to a high-level centre (and therefore for a high-level centre to import from a low-level centre). as well as the diffusion of innovations. reductions in the cost of transport have reduced the importance of centrality in gaining access to markets and inputs to production. this has resulted from households and firms relocating from the metropolitan core to locations beyond it. HALL and PAIN . Another category of flows in the urban system of a city-region (though one not present in the models discussed above) concerns the daily movement of labour from centres of one level to centres of a higher. In the typical city-region of Northwest Europe and the Eastern Seaboard of North America. that this spatial-structure advantage in the process of adjustment would be less prominent and perhaps even non-existent in cityregions that are more extensive. Under these conditions there is a hierarchical redefinition of the relevant sets of goods. which are unrelated to the core. For each of these flows of labour there is a reverse flow of wages and salaries. In more recent times. In another case the level continues to exist but becomes less extensive (with fewer centres) or more intensive (with a greater number of centres). but also permits changes in the location of the workplace. is the development of inter-metropolitan axes or corridors between the dominant metropolitan cores of adjacent city-regions. with the location of residence remaining unaffected. 1991. Unfortunately. but this has exhibited a steady increase over recent decades due to the expansion of car ownership. 2006). Spatial-structure change in the city-region It will be apparent that the urban system of the modern city-region is to be seen as something other than a static structure. these taking the form of shocks. One case involves the formation of a new level. It should not be forgotten that the city-region exists within the wider territory. However. with low overall population densities. particularly since commuting may be a temporary or even a permanent substitute for migration (TERMOTE . and in discussions of the city-region external linkages sometimes go unrecognized or underemphasized. reduced travel costs and shorter travel times. the movement of people and information. In this way the spatial structure of the city-region permits or even facilitates economic adjustment. with the growth rate of the hinterland (most of this growth being in urban centres) exceeding that of the core. and the accompanying interaction based on trade flows. The effect of such shocks is to modify the size distribution of centres within the regional urban system. It must be stressed. a feature of the Lösch system. which increasingly take place from the highest level (the metropolitan . be this the nation. as well as changes in the location of residence with the location of the workplace unaffected. the trend has been toward deconcentration. a lower or the same level. often as part of a mutually reinforcing shift of population and employment. this former level being combined with the next higher or next lower level. the joint-location problem of dual-income households (VAN OMMEREN et al. flows of this kind are difficult to acquire. and the evidence on this is not clear. itself. which may be an important part of the economic base for many urban centres in the city-region. In addition. 1978). 1999) becomes a less pressing one. Commuting represents an important lubricant for both labour-market flexibility and residential adjustment. One aspect of this. Daily flows of labour to (and also from) the dominant metropolitan core continue to be important. employment and income. but the hierarchy remains unchanged in terms of its number of levels and the number of centres of each level. although there may be intervals when the pace of change is relatively slow. Such shifts include relocations among levels of the urban hierarchy. there can be no question of the urban system being rebuilt de novo. Obviously. As already mentioned.Downloaded by [University of Winnipeg] at 17:07 04 September 2014 10 John B. as the result of a given shock. It follows that these different adjustments all involve changes in the structure of trade flows. In part. a trading bloc or the world economy. Within most city-regions of the developed world the spatial structure continued to undergo a process of concentration well into the first quarter of the twentieth century. information flows have rightly been accorded an importance among many researchers. the shock may be sufficiently great that the hierarchy. which was considered by Lösch. where population density is relatively high and the accompanying spacing of urban centres is correspondingly low. of course. Instead. however. For example.

The Regional Economy. These range from environmental modification and demographic evolution to the impacts of economic and technological change. 2009) and FUJITA et al. Wren and two anonymous referees for their comments on earlier versions of this paper. Spatial Structure and Regional Urban Systems core) to lower levels. By extension. the outcome is anything but certain. so as to gain insight into its internal operation and evolution over the long run. and to good effect. in order to understand more adequately the spatial and sectoral variability of economic performance. however. 1842/1966). Currently. for example. it may be claimed that the region is too crude a focus. and to this extent the term is redundant. 2010. HALL (2009. On occasions the term ‘polycentric’ is used as a shorthand means of describing a region that is not ‘monocentric’. the treatment of the region requires further elaboration and specification. it would seem desirable that whenever the term ‘region’ is being used. have availed themselves of such a facility for centuries. It has long been maintained that for economic (and other kinds of) analysis the nation is too unwieldy a unit. 3. and to the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the journal. As an economic unit. only part of the L-system was included in each case. the region as a unit of analysis is not always well defined and can thus become a source of confusion. pp. More generally. There seems to be every indication that the nature of economic and technological change will continue to favour the broad trend toward deconcentration. (1999). the city-region has emerged as a dominant spatial form. the planner and the analyst). 2001). 808–811). Unfortunately. the implications of which are likely to be considerable. OVERMAN and IOANNIDES . Various fields of the medical and biological sciences. is of potential importance in this connection. the origins of the nodal region can be traced back to the work of von Thünen (VON THÜNEN / WARTENBURG . As was argued. This represents an important scale of analysis (intermediate between the locality or urban centre and the nation). in the narrow sense that each contains a number of (sometimes many) urban centres. the formulation of a general theory has nevertheless proven elusive. At the very least. Two further L-systems were included: those based on Frankfurt and Strasbourg. 11 For the developed world. 4. NOTES 1. has offered a thoughtful account of the more important tendencies (what he terms changes in the ‘basic parameters’) that are likely to influence the form of the city-region in coming decades. Downloaded by [University of Winnipeg] at 17:07 04 September 2014 CONCLUSIONS Attention may now be drawn to some of the main issues that have emerged from this discussion. although there has been a tendency for these to be underestimated. and to an increasing extent the developing world. As a consequence the spatial structure of the city-region (particularly when viewed as a regional urban system) will assume an obvious importance in public as well as private decision-taking. along with greatly altered patterns of consumption. not least in terms of its spatial structure (GARRETSEN and MARTIN . the core representing the single market for agricultural commodities produced in the hinterland. it would probably be imprudent (and also very difficult) to pursue matters concerning the future beyond this point. to which it supplied goods and services. Thanks are also due to the Guest Editors of this special issue of Regional Studies. spatial structure represents a partial determinant of regional economic change as well as a reflection of it. Since these extended beyond the boundary of the area of the case study (Southern Germany). While there is an obvious need for information about future trends (in order to assist the policy-maker. Consideration of spatial structure thus goes some way to understanding the nature of the regional economy and its ability to adjust to external influences. Christaller was certainly aware that goods and services were produced in Southern Germany which were not . In the analysis of spatial structure the contributions of location theory are substantial. although its significance and utility have been called into question. and that its economy should be considered at a sub-regional scale or preferably in spatial-structure terms. that while NEG models are able to provide powerful insights into the operation of an economy over space. Further progress can be expected. the latter emphasis being the more conventional view. while warning of the dangers of prediction. and also from the highest level to urban centres located within a particular distance range. the term ‘polycentric’ tends to be employed indiscriminately. all regions can be regarded as polycentric. With regard to the future structure of the city-region. Naturally. not excessively dominated by a particular centre. 2. that is. Acknowledgements – The author wishes to thank D. It must be added. which should be disaggregated into regions. stimulated by the work of KRUGMAN (1995. beginning with the notion of the region. While particular aspects of location theory have assisted our understanding of urban systems. and the continued development of the ‘New Economic Geography’ (NEG). In Part I of this study his Isolated State consisted of a single urban core and a hinterland. C. it would be helpful if urban and regional analysis had at its disposal a language (or simply a grammar) by which this confusion could be avoided. usually hierarchically differentiated. Over recent decades the city-region has become the arena in which the processes of economic development and economic change are being played out. and it is common for a national space economy to comprise a set of city-regions. Batten. some working definition should be provided.

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