Economic geography is the study of the spatial distribution of the factors of production. Economic geography, therefore, looks at the organization and distribution of global economic activity, including the distribution of resources, including human capital. Simply stated, economic geography examines where economic activity occurs, why it occurs there, and the resulting consequences.
Economic geographers, along with economists working with the field of economic geography, analyze a variety of economic conditions and their effect on people and the economy. Economic geographers frequently consider issues involving globalization, international trade, location of industry, transportation, underdevelopment, and ethnic and gender economies.
Economic geography developed based on the introduction of quantitative methods to location analysis. Location analysis is a group of theories that seeks to explain the reason for the location of certain economic activities in certain areas. Early location theorists based their work on the economic man, a hypothetical individual that acts rationally at all times based upon complete knowledge of economic conditions.
The field of new economic geography embraces the complexity of individuals. New economic geography, therefore, analyzes conditions based on cultural, social, institutional, and other factors that play into an individual's decision-making.
Modern economic geographers rely on computer-aided analysis to assist them in modeling and other tasks. Economic geographers utilize geographic information systems (GIS) to conduct spatial analysis. Spatial analysis refers to the examination of the physical distribution of variables and the relationship between those variables.
Economic geography has traditionally served as a subfield of geography. Over the last 20 years, however, economists, including Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman, and other prominent economists, have increasingly turned to economic geography to analyze economic phenomena. Economists apply models and techniques derived from economics to the discipline of economic geography in order to examine economic issues, such as the geographical concentration of manufacturing in certain areas.
Economic geographers, however, note that they take a more holistic approach than economists to these economic considerations. While economists tend to reduce the economic world to a homogenous arena, economic geographers of the new economic geography school consider a variety of factors, including cultural, social and institutional, into account when analyzing economic issues.
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Adrienne Wilmoth Lerner