Analyze the Spatial Inequality Trends in the US Megaregion

The trending pattern of inequality has long interested academic scholars and policy makers. A classic theory, known as the Kuznets Curve, suggests that economic inequality follows an inverted “U” shape, rising during the initial stage of development, and then falling as wealth accumulates. Economic divergence and convergence refer to the first and second half, respectively, of the distribution trend of inequality. Recent studies, however, have revealed the U.S. inequality exhibiting the opposite pattern to what the theory suggests: convergence was observed in the United States before 1980s. Since then, the trend has turn to divergence, evidenced by the widening gaps between super cities and medium-/small-cities and rural communities (Hendrickson, et al. 2018). Some attributed the diverging process to the on-going shift of the economy to become increasingly digital technology-oriented, which lead to increased market demand for and intensified agglomeration of skilled labors (Kemeny and Storper, 2020). Other studies cited national factors, including economic development, resource allocation, population and housing mobility, institutions and education as well as ethnic heterogeneity, that all impact inequality trends. Variations in labor productivity across economic sectors and social stratifications may modify divergence/convergence processes, as the existing studies have shown (Goubin and Hooghe, 2020; Kinfemichael and Morshed, 2019; Lessmann and Seidel, 2017). Growingly, scholars and policy-makers are paying attention to the spatial dimension of divergence/convergence for the interest of developing place-sensitive policies to reduce inequality effectively (Woo et al., 2015; Hendrickson, et al. 2018; Kemeny and Storper, 2020). The proposed study investigates inequality trends and their driving forces in the U.S. megaregions. Specific questions this study aims to explore are: 1) Do megaregions exhibit similar or varying patterns of divergence/convergence? 2) To what extent do the advanced producer services (APS), which are widely viewed as key industries to maintain and strengthen the competitiveness of global city-regions, contribute to megaregional divergence/convergence? 3) Which industrial sectors differentiated megaregions in their conditions and processes of divergence/convergence? and 4) How do megaregional divergence/convergence trends relate to the national divergence/convergence process and driving forces? The study applies the widely used analytical framework for examining divergence/convergence, namely, β-convergence and σ-convergence (Rey and Janikas, 2005). Main data sources for the study include U.S. County Business Patterns 1986-2017 and American Community Surveys in corresponding years. Additional data, for instance, federal expenditure and transportation infrastructure, will be compiled from related agencies. The study will estimate the coefficients of β-convergence and σ-convergence at the aggregate national and megaregional levels and at the levels of major industrial sectors, including APS sectors. Implications will be drawn from the analysis findings for megaregional approach to addressing inequality challenges.


    • English


    • Status: Completed
    • Funding: $15000
    • Contract Numbers:


    • Sponsor Organizations:

      Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

      University Transportation Centers Program
      Department of Transportation
      Washington, DC  United States  20590
    • Managing Organizations:

      Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

      University Transportation Centers Program
      Department of Transportation
      Washington, DC  United States  20590
    • Project Managers:

      Stearns, Amy

    • Performing Organizations:

      Cooperative Mobility for Competitive Megaregions (CM2)

      University of Texas at Austin
      Austin, TX  United States  78712
    • Principal Investigators:

      Zhang, Ming

    • Start Date: 20210101
    • Expected Completion Date: 20220731
    • Actual Completion Date: 20220527
    • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01847467
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: Cooperative Mobility for Competitive Megaregions (CM2)
    • Contract Numbers: 69A3551747135
    • Files: UTC, RIP
    • Created Date: May 28 2022 10:18AM