Beneath the Rust: Post-Industrial Urban American Economic Resilience
Falk, Jonathan David
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This thesis examines how network connections between economic leaders and civic institutions may increase an urban area's resilience against economic challenges. The evolution of the American marketplace during the last century from an industrial to a "knowledge-based" economy confronted urban areas with significant challenges, especially depending on the extent of local dependence on the failing industries. This thesis provides a sociocultural measure to help explain the differences in abilities to adapt to industrial collapse, using Buffalo, New York as an example. An urban area's business leaders and their involvement in local civic groups form interlocking networks. When an individual firm closes or relocates, and its corresponding business leaders leave, the social vacuum left behind may impact the greater network in unforeseen ways that dramatically contribute to the economic detriment of the urban area. This thesis has two core components. First, the qualitative approach compares the city of Buffalo in 1950 and 1975, immediately before and after industrial collapse, and the relationships within the networks between industrial leaders and civic institutions. This social framework is necessary to contextualize the responses to post-industrial economic challenges. Second, the quantitative approach tests the level of connectivity, or strength of ties, among economic and civic entities in Buffalo for both the years 1950 and 1975. These periods represent the economic landscape both before and after major setbacks for local economies, including firm closures and relocation, resulting in population loss and economic decline.