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Center-affiliated doctoral candidate successfully defends dissertation

Posted: February 22, 2016

Congratulations to Jiaochen Liang, a Penn State doctoral candidate who recently defended his dissertation in Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Economics. Liang's dissertation research focused on U.S. regional development and economic resilience.

Dissertation abstract:

In economic geography, there is a tendency to view regional economies as an inter-connected and endlessly evolving system. The way in which different sectors interact with each other in a region significantly influences the performance and future development of a local economy. This dissertation is comprised of three essays on U.S. regional economies, focusing on their resilience in the context of globalization as well as sector employment growth in recent decades. By investigating the impacts of entrepreneurship and industrial structure on the development and future pathways of a local economy, I seek to reveal details about the mechanisms of regional economic development and resilience from an evolutionary perspective.

The first two essays are about regional resilience against trade shocks. Different from previous literature in this area, these two articles study economic resilience from a new perspective of evolutionary economic geography, which emphasizes the ability to reconfigure economic structure and develop new growth pathways. The first essay proposes several mechanisms through which entrepreneurs can help to mitigate adverse trade shocks. Empirical results confirm that the adverse marginal impacts of trade shocks on job losses are dampened in regions with higher self-employment rates. The second essay studies how a regional economy converts the adverse impacts of import competition into a stimulus for developing new growth pathways. It is found that regions experiencing greater import competition are more likely to attract new industry entrants, which in turn may offer new growth opportunities and counteract the direct losses from trade shocks.

The third essay uses data on U.S. Commuting zones to investigate the heterogeneous impacts of industrial variety on the development of different sectors. The results suggest that industrial variety has a greater contribution to employment growth in two types of sectors: manufacturing industries that are technologically intensive, and geographically-agglomerated industries. This suggests the roles of industrial variety in contributing to growth are principally sector-based, and significantly depend on region-industry specific conditions.