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Why Cities Appear to Fail under Economic Globalization? Taking Detroit as an Example

Yifan Cai


In the era of economic globalization, cities across the globe show very different economic development profiles. While a number of cities have enjoyed the benefits of global economic connections, Detroit’s economy shrunk sharply. Why would that happen? First, this article investigates how industrial re-orientation under global change impacts Detroit’s economic development. Next, this article focuses on the diversity of industries and how it influences Detroit’s urban growth through mechanisms of agglomeration economy. Then, this article points out the importance of human capital and how place-based strategy instead of people-based strategy influence Detroit negatively. Finally, this article explores further about social environment in Detroit that harms its economic performance. In conclusion, this article asserts that urban re-orientation in the global production network, diversity of industries, human capitals, social environment, and politically radical actions constitute Detroit’s failure, with human capitals as the most prominent factor.


International Political Economy; Development Strategy; Detroit

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18686/mmf.v6i2.4144