Economic geography

Economic geography

Economic geography is the study of the location, distribution and spatial organization of economic activities across the Earth. The subject matter investigated is strongly influenced by the researcher's methodological approach. Neoclassical location theorists, following in the tradition of Alfred Weber, tend to focus on industrial location and use quantitative methods. Since the 1970s, two broad reactions against neoclassical approaches have significantly changed the discipline: Marxist political economy, growing out of the seminal work of David Harvey; and the new economic geography which takes into account social, cultural, and institutional factors in the spatial economy.

Economic geography is usually regarded as a subfield of the discipline of geography, although recently economists such as Paul Krugman and Jeffrey Sachs have pursued interests that can be considered part of economic geography. Krugman has gone so far as to call his application of spatial thinking to international trade theory the "new economic geography", which directly competes with an approach within the discipline of geography that is also called "new economic geography". The name geographical economics has been suggested as an alternative.

Given the variety of approaches, economic geography has taken to many different subject matters, including: the location of industries, economies of agglomeration (also known as "linkages"), transportation, international trade and development, real estate, gentrification, ethnic economies, gendered economies, core-periphery theory, the economics of urban form, the relationship between the environment and the economy (tying into a long history of geographers studying culture-environment interaction), and globalization. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Areas of Study

Approaches to study

  • Theoretical economic geography focuses on building theories about spatial arrangement and distribution of economic activities.
  • Historical economic geography examines history and the development of spatial economic structure.
  • Regional economic geography examines the economic conditions of particular regions or countries of the world. It deals with economic regionalisation as well.
  • Critical economic geography is approach from the point of view of contemporary critical geography and its philosophy.
  • Behavioral economic geography examines the cognitive processes underlying spatial reasoning, locational decision making, and behavior of firms and individuals.


Thematically economic geography can be divided into these subdisciplines:

  • 'Geography of agriculture'
  • 'Geography of industry'
  • 'Internet Geography'
  • 'Geography of services'
  • 'Geography of transportation'
  • and others

However, their areas of study may overlap with another geographical sciences or may be considered on their own.

History of economic geography

In the history of economic geography there were many influences coming mainly from economics and geographical sciences.

First traces of the study of spatial aspects of economic activities on Earth can be found in Strabo's Geographika written almost 2000 years ago. This has recently been challenged, however, by seven Chinese maps of the State of Qin dating to the 4th century BC.

During the period known in geography as environmental determinism notable (though later much criticized) influence came from Ellsworth Huntington and his theory of climatic determinism.

Valuable contributions came from location theorists such as Johann Heinrich von Thünen or Alfred Weber. Other influential theories were Walter Christaller's Central place theory, the theory of core and periphery.

Fred K. Schaefer's article Exceptionalism in geography: A Methodological Examination published in American journal Annals (Association of American Geographers) and his critique of regionalism had a big impact on economic geography. The article became a rallying point for the younger generation of economic geographers who were intent on reinventing the discipline as a science. Quantitative methods became prevailing in research. Well-known economic geographers of this period are William Garrison, Brian Berry, Waldo Tobler, Peter Haggett, William Bunge and others.

Contemporary economic geographers tend to specialize in areas such as location theory and spatial analysis (with the help of geographic information systems), market research, geography of transportation, land or real estate price evaluation, regional and global development, planning, Internet geography, and others.


Further reading

  • Lloyd, P. E. - Dicken, P. (1977): Location in space - A Theoretical Approach to Economic Geography, Second Edition. Harper & Row Ltd, London.
  • Massey, D. (1984): Spatial Divisions of Labour, Social Structures and the Structure of Production, MacMillan, London.
  • Lee, R. - Wills, J. (1997): Geographies of Economies, Arnold, London.
  • Dicken, P. (2003): Global Shift: Reshaping the Global Economic Map in the 21st Century, Fourth Edition. The Guilford Press.
  • '''Allen J SCOTT (2006) "Geography and Economy". Oxford University Press.

Scientific Journals

Economic Geography - founded and published quarterly at Clark University since 1925
Journal of Economic Geography - published by Oxford University Press since 2001
Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie - The German Journal of Economic Geography published since 1956.
Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie (TESG) - Published by The Royal Dutch Geographical Society (KNAG) since 1948.

See also

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