Economic geography

Jump to: navigation, search

Economic geography is the study of the location, distribution and spatial organization of economic activities across the Earth. The subject matter investigated is strongly influenced by the researcher's methodological approach. Neoclassical location theorists, following in the tradition of Alfred Weber, tend to focus on industrial location and use quantitative methods. Since the 1970s, two broad reactions against neoclassical approaches have significantly changed the discipline: Marxist political economy, growing out of the work of David Harvey; and the new economic geography which takes into account social, cultural, and institutional factors in the spatial economy.

Economic geography is usually regarded as a subfield of the discipline of geography, although recently economists such as Paul Krugman and Jeffrey Sachs have pursued interests that can be considered part of economic geography.[1] Krugman has gone so far as to call his application of spatial thinking to international trade theory the "new economic geography", which directly competes with an approach within the discipline of geography that is also called "new economic geography". The name geographical economics has been suggested as an alternative.[2]

Given the variety of approaches, economic geography has taken to many different subject matters, including: the location of industries, economies of agglomeration (also known as "linkages"), transportation, international trade and development, real estate, gentrification, ethnic economies, gendered economies, core-periphery theory, the economics of urban form, the relationship between the environment and the economy (tying into a long history of geographers studying culture-environment interaction), and globalization. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Approaches to study

As the economic geography is a very broad discipline with economic geographers using many different methodologies in the study of economic phenomena in the world some distinct approaches to study have evolved over time:

  • Theoretical economic Geography focuses on building theories about spatial arrangement and distribution of economic activities.
  • Regional economic geography examines the economic conditions of particular regions or countries of the world. It deals with economic regionalization, and local economic development as well.
  • Historical economic geography examines history and the development of spatial economic structure. Using historical data it examines how the centers of population and economic activity shift, what patterns of regional specialization and localization evolved over time and what factors explain these changes.
  • Critical economic geography is approach from the point of view of contemporary critical geography and its philosophy.
  • Behavioral economic geography which examines the cognitive processes underlying spatial reasoning, locational decision making, and behavior of firms[3] and individuals.
  • ...

Economic geography is a regional system of human economic activity to central to a discipline , It is an important anthropogeography branch disciplines , Include economic activities of position, space combination types and developing process, etc. To production as the main body of the human economic activities , Include production, exchange, distribution and consumption of the whole process, is by the material flow, commodity flow, population flow and information flow the rural and urban residential areas, transportation site, commercial service facilities and finance and other economic center link together and consisting of a economic activity system . This series of economic activities are in specific areas, therefore, with the regional for unit research world, regional economic activities of the system and its developmental process, and become the economic geography research the special field .


Thematically economic geography can be divided into these sub disciplines:

  • 'Geography of Agriculture'
  • 'Geography of Industry'
  • 'Geography of International Trade'
  • 'Geography of Resources'
  • 'Geography of Transport and Communication'
  • and others

However, their areas of study may overlap with another geographical sciences or may be considered on their own.

History of economic geography

In the history of economic geography there were many influences coming mainly from economics and geographical sciences.

First traces of the study of spatial aspects of economic activities on Earth can be found in Strabo's Geographika written around 2000 years ago. This has recently been challenged, however, by seven Chinese maps of the State of Qin dating to the 4th century BC.

During the period known in geography as environmental determinism, notable (though later much criticized) influence came from Ellsworth Huntington and his theory of climatic determinism.

Valuable contributions came from location theorists such as Johann Heinrich von Thünen or Alfred Weber. Other influential theories were Walter Christaller's Central place theory, the theory of core and periphery.

Fred K. Schaefer's article Exceptionalism in geography: A Methodological Examination published in American journal Annals (Association of American Geographers) and his critique of regionalism had a big impact on economic geography. The article became a rallying point for the younger generation of economic geographers who were intent on reinventing the discipline as a science. Quantitative methods became prevailing in research. Well-known economic geographers of this period are William Garrison, Brian Berry, Waldo Tobler, Peter Haggett, William Bunge and others.

Contemporary economic geographers tend to specialize in areas such as location theory and spatial analysis (with the help of geographic information systems), market research, geography of transportation, land or real estate price evaluation, regional and global development, planning, Internet geography, innovation, social networks and others.

Economists and Economic Geographers

Economists and economic geographers differ in their methods in approaching similar economic problems in several ways. In general an economic geographer will take a more holistic approach in the analysis of economic phenomena, which is to conceptualize a problem in terms of space, place and scale as well as the overt economic problem that is being examined. Whereas an economist may simply look at the figures of a country’s GDP or other indices to form his or her opinion on its overall economic health, an economic geographer should break down the categories that make up the GDP numbers for example in terms of space, place and scale. Economic geographers take into consideration the human geography within these perspectives or sensibilities. The economist approach according to the text has four main drawbacks or “economic orthodoxy that tends to homogenize the economic world in way that economic geographers try to avoid (Coe p.10) ” The first is universalism, which means that economists seem to think that one set of financial remedies will work in every situation without taking factors such as space, place and scale into consideration. The second is economic rationality that is thinking the most probable cause of a problem is in fact the source of the problem. The third is economists assuming that capitalism (or competition and equilibrium) is the best economic approach for any economic problem or economic phenomena that may be analyzed. The fourth is that economists think in terms of processes based on certain laws and principles in the field of economics (Coe p. 11). An economic geographer will use his expertise in many fields to determine the underlying causes of an economic problem holistically.

As an example, an economic geographer would approach certain GDP calculations or methods quite differently from an economist. The consumption expenditure which is part of the GDP formula currently calculates the total amount spent by individuals in a year that includes food, fuel, housing, clothing, appliances etc. Economic geographers may question the concept of what constitutes an economic transaction by the individual or what is traditionally accepted as an economic act. “If you drive or take a bus to your campus or a place of work, then you have engaged in an economic act (Yeung p.35) ” but if you walk or ride a bike it does not count towards the GDP calculations although clearly work has been performed. The economic geographer will tend to think outside the “conceptual boundaries (Yeung p.35) ” of traditional economic formulas and laws. The economic geographer may need to introduce a separate component of consumption expenditure such as“green” or environmentally friendly fuel expenditure, and give it some value. Another example of thinking outside the conceptual boundaries of economic acts would be to include work done at home by the homemaker towards income on the positive side or housing costs calculations. Economists will tend to think of an economy (or economic phenomena) as one large entity that they can crunch the numbers to and come up with a homogenous plan that will work in just about any situation. That approach can be problematic. A well thought out holistic approach of an economic geographer who takes into consideration space, place, scale and other factors should be considered as well when trying to analyze economic phenomena.

See also

  • List of economic geography topics
  • Location theory
  • Spatial analysis
  • Development geography
  • Regional science
  • Retail geography
  • Rural economics
  • Urban economics
  • Business cluster
  • Gravity model of trade
  • geographical economics


  1. Gordon L. Clark, Meric S. Gertler, and Maryann P. Feldman, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-823410-4. 
  2. Steven Brakman, Harry Garretsen, Charles van Marrewijk. An Introduction to Geographical Economics. 
  3. Schoenberger, E. (2001): Corporate autobiographies: the narrative strategies of corporate strategists. Journal of Economic Geography 1, 277-98.

4. Yeung, Henry Wai-Chung, Neil M. Coe, and Philip F. Kelly. Economic Geography : A Contemporary Introduction. Grand Rapids: Blackwell Limited, 2007.

Further reading

  • Lloyd, P. E. - Dicken, P. (1977): Location in space - A Theoretical Approach to Economic Geography, Second Edition. Harper & Row Ltd, London.
  • Massey, D. (1984): Spatial Divisions of Labour, Social Structures and the Structure of Production, MacMillan, London.
  • Lee, R. - Wills, J. (1997): Geographies of Economies, Arnold, London.
  • Dicken, P. (2003): Global Shift: Reshaping the Global Economic Map in the 21st Century, Fourth Edition. The Guilford Press.
  • Scott, A. J. (2006) Geography and Economy. Oxford University Press.

Scientific Journals

Economic Geography - founded and published quarterly at Clark University since 1925
Journal of Economic Geography - published by Oxford University Press since 2001
Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie - The German Journal of Economic Geography published since 1956.
Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie (TESG) - Published by The Royal Dutch Geographical Society (KNAG) since 1948.

External links