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Toward Understanding Urban Pathology: Creating a Typology of 'Weak Market' Cities, Working Paper 021 Open Access

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Not all distressed cities are the same, either in the causes of their distress or in its manifestations. In this paper, we empirically develop a typology of economically distressed cities which differentiates among types of cities based on different aspects of economic distress and its impact on city residents. We measure two facets of distress by using eight indicators to create two distinct distress indexes, the City Economic Condition index and the Residential Economic Wellbeing index. Cities that fall in the bottom third of the distribution on these indexes are considered economically distressed, or “Weak Market” cities. We then use cluster analysis to differentiate among the weak market cities based on different aspects of distress, and to explore the relationship between the economic health of cities and that of their metropolitan areas. We argue that urban policy makers must recognize that distressed cities are not a homogenous group, and that appropriate policy solutions will reflect the differences among such cities.

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