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Economic diversity and complexity in the urban context: Exploring the links between urban morphology and economic performance in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Vieira Magalhães, Lucas (2020) Economic diversity and complexity in the urban context: Exploring the links between urban morphology and economic performance in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

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Abstract:The diversity of economic activities is one of the key characteristics that make cities attractive in our society. Not only a natural consequence of how cities are built, different aspects of the urban form influence the enhancement or decline of such economic diversity. Urban morphology is the study of the set of physical features a city offers to its inhabitants, such as buildings and road layout. This research explores how urban morphology influences levels of economic diversity within a city, considering it as a complex system, and how this in turn influences the economic performance achieved in different areas. Economic performance is the expected collective development that thriving economic activities bring to a society. The aspects of urban morphology analysed in this research are related to the built environment, to land-use patterns and to road layout connectivity. This is statistically compared to multiple economic diversity and complexity indices, such as Shannon’s entropy, Simpson’s diversity and the Economic Complexity Index. A place’s economic diversity is, then, statistically analysed in relation to different proxies for economic performance, such as rates of innovation, entrepreneurship, and resilience. That is done in an intra-urban approach, comparing different scales within the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and in different timeframes. This research finds statistically relevant enhancers for economic diversity and complexity in multiple urban morphology indicators, as well as proxies of economic performance significantly influenced by both economic diversity and complexity. Factors such as built-up density and a high land-use mix have a strong positive effect on both the diversity and complexity of urban economic activities. Proxies for economic performance, such as the emergence of new firms and the rate of innovation for new firms are also found to be positively influenced by higher economic diversities, while a proxy for economic resilience is found to be highly influenced by a place’s economic complexity. The research concludes that a quantitative analysis for previously qualitative urban theories can confirm some assumptions in urban planning, such as that built-up densities can enhance economic development and could, thus, be stimulated by urban policies. Moreover, further research taking different urban contexts into consideration is encouraged, so findings can be further expanded. Keywords: economic diversity; economic complexity; urban morphology; economic performance
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ITC: Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation
Programme:Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation MSc (75014)
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