Business, College of


Date of this Version

March 1984


Published in Journal of Economic History, Vol. XLIV, No. 1 (March 1984). Copyright © The Economic History Association. Used by permission.


At least since the North-Tiebout debate of the 1950s there has been a tradition of cross-fertilization between regional science and economic history to the benefit of both fields. Although numerous landmark studies mark this symbiosis, one specific study deserves particular mention: Regions, Resources and Economic Growth by Harvey S. Perloff, Edgar S. Dunn, Jr., Eric E. Lampard, and Richard F. Muth (The Johns Hopkins Press, 1960). That book, by combining a massive data collection and refinement effort with the then emerging shift/share technique of regional science, provided a comprehensive picture and causal examination of variations in U.S. regional growth patterns between 1870 and 1954. It represents a direct harbinger of Edgar S. Dunn, Jr.'s two- volume study presently under review.

At the most superficial level, The Development of the U.S. Urban System extends the earlier work into the 1940-1970 time frame by applying shift/share analysis to decennial census regional/industrial employment statistics. This study, however, seeks to accomplish much more for, as Dunn points out in his preface to Volume 1, "[e]xplanation is always rooted in the conceptual images we bring to a field of study [and i]n the field of urban and regional development . .. the literature offers only a highly fragmented and disassociated set of concepts" (p.xv). The goal of the study is therefore to provide a unifying framework with which to analyze spatial growth patterns and to apply the conceptual apparatus developed to a period of rapid change in the U.S. economy. As such the study is more than an exercise in quantitative economic history; it also presents a new methodology and attempts to reorient the way we look at urban systems.

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