1975 volume 7(7) pages 821 – 832

Cite as:
Hansen N M, 1975, "An evaluation of growth-center theory and practice" Environment and Planning A 7(7) 821 – 832

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An evaluation of growth-center theory and practice

N M Hansen

Received in revised form 16 June 1975

Abstract. This paper examines empirical and theoretical issues associated with the growth-center approach to regional development, and argues that despite many difficulties the major themes of the growth-center literature still have relevance to regional policy. Although there has been increasing interest in analyzing the nature and significance of spontaneously growing urban places, the growth-center approach is most meaningful in the context of induced growth. There is little evidence that induced growth centers generate significant spread effects on their economically lagging hinterlands; but they can properly serve as regional centers of in-migration.

It is difficult to derive an adequate growth model from a market-oriented hierarchy of central place schemes. If one is concerned with innovations and impulses of economic change, using the central place model as a locational matrix or landscape, it should be recognized that information and innovations can be transmitted upward through the hierarchy or laterally among centers of the same level, even though the diffusion process is likely to operate in a downward direction. Recent studies by Pred, Törnqvist, and Goddard indicate that these issues may be clarified by shifting attention to organizational information flows within urban systems. Nevertheless, attempts to focus on the functioning of the 'postindustrial' society should not detract from the opportunities that manufacturing decentralization represents for many nonmetropolitan areas. Of course, better access within national (or even international) communications networks can be of considerable help to these areas, not only in attracting more manufacturing activity, but also in upgrading its quality. This in turn depends on the ability of people in lagging regions to take advantage of opportunities, that is, on the quality of rural human resources. The failure of most growth-center theory and practice to include explicitly human resource and manpower dimensions is at least equal to the neglect of information circulation.

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