The interdependent forces of local growth: A county-level study, 2001–2011

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Perspectives in human ecology and political economy present local growth as a syndrome of interdependent changes happening over time within municipalities. This quantitative study examines the reciprocal relationship between three core concepts of growth: employment, land development, and migration. To assess these associations across the United States, covering the years 2001–2011, we merge county-level data (n = 3,108) from three sources: USA Counties’ Employment Data; satellite imagery from the National Land Cover Database; and the Internal Revenue Service’s County-to-County Migration Data. In structural equation models (SEMs) with cross-lagged associations, we estimate the reciprocal relationship between first-difference change scores for three variables: the unemployment rate, the area of human constructed impervious surfaces (i.e. land development), and the ratio of in/out migration. While land development and migration are in an asymmetric, positive feedback loop, the reciprocal association between unemployment and migration is positive in one direction and negative in the other. With SEM, the analysis contributes to the literature by highlighting the social forces of local growth as an interdependent system of reciprocal change, although not fully recursive.