Human Capital, Skills, and Uneven Intraurban Employment Growth: The Case of Goteborg, Sweden, 1990-2008

By Borggren, Jonathan; Eriksson, Rikard H. | Urban Studies Research, Annual 2014 | Go to article overview

Human Capital, Skills, and Uneven Intraurban Employment Growth: The Case of Goteborg, Sweden, 1990-2008


Borggren, Jonathan, Eriksson, Rikard H., Urban Studies Research


1. Background

The gradual shift from manufacturing to a postindustrial knowledge-based economy has resulted in a number of events that have changed future prerequisites for economic development. These events include a deepened spatial division of labour at both regional [1] and urban [2] levels, urban decline and revitalization [3], and a growing service industry [4, 5]. In relation to this, increasing attention has been directed towards how the changing geography of talent shapes the preconditions for regional and urban development. In particular, focus has been on the role of high concentrations of human capital and creativity when it comes to explaining postindustrial location tendencies and why certain localities prosper while others do not [6-8]. However, recent contributions have shown that it is not the pure agglomeration of certain industries and skills that primarily drive development but rather the composition of knowledge at both the level of the region [9-12] and within the firm [13]. Framing the issue of the geography of talents is its impact on the economic structure of the city region as a whole. In agreement with Tornqvist [14], Hutton [15] and Hansen, and Winther [2], we argue that studying the city region from a holistic perspective is not fruitful if one wishes to put the spatial division of talents in the context of contemporary urban development, especially if one wishes to understand current urban economic activity. Thus, instead of conceptualising the city as a homogenous fabric of inputs and outputs in order to compare its economic activities with other cities, most notably illustrated in the phrase of "cauldrons of creativity" [8], Hansen and Winther [2] argue that the growing complexity of location dynamics within the city needs to be highlighted and consequently also studied through intraurban analysis.

The aim of this paper is to address how the composition of urban talent and the evolving landscape of skills are related to the dynamics of intraurban employment. By connecting to the ongoing discussion on the characteristics of the urban drivers of economic development [6, 8], we construct two different indicators. First, an indicator of intraurban concentrations of human capitalin 84 primary urban city areas (PUA) in the metropolitan region of Gooteborg (we use the Swedish name Goteborg throughout, instead of the English name Gothenburg), Sweden, capturing views building on human capital theory [16, 17]. Second, an indicator of the intraurban composition of skills, reflecting relative concentrations of individuals with creative educations (here termed core) and noncreative educations (here termed comparison group), intended to reflect variety and diversity associated with Florida's ideas on the importance of a creative capital [8] and Jacobs externalities [18], emphasizing urban diversity. This is made possible by means of employee-employer matched longitudinal microdata linking attributes of individuals to features of plants and localities with a high geographical resolution that makes it possible to assess intraurban employment dynamics. The indicator is set to reflect areas with high (low) relative concentrations of core (i.e., creative skills) in comparison to the Goteborg metropolitan area. By also addressing how the composition of skills influences intraurban employment growth over time (1990-1993, 1990-2000, and 1990-2008), this paper contributes to existing knowledge in several key regards. First, we will be able to provide new insights on the role of creativity for understanding employment growth in relation to the demise of the Fordist production system and the rise of postindustrial production modes. This is done by analysing not only the relative concentration of human capital across urban areas but also the composition of skills within a city region. Second, by using one start year (1990) and three different end years, we will address how this initial composition of skills influences employment growth over different stages in the economic cycle to understand whether past activities leave traces for future development: deep recession (1990-1993), a period of recovery (1990-2000), and over a longer period of growth (1990-2008). …

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