Are big cities really the motor of UK regional economic growth?

Steve Fothergill, Donald Houston

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In the UK, the increasingly dominant assumption is that the big cities are the motor of regional economic growth. This city-centric view stands in marked contrast to the pre-2000 assumption that Britain’s largest cities were actually the main focus of declining employment and population. Drawing on a range of theoretical ideas and evidence, this article questions the view that the big cities are the key drivers of UK regional growth. It recognises that there have been important changes in trends, notably in London, but argues that the geography of recent economic trends in the UK is largely one of regional divergence. There is scant evidence that the big provincial cities perform better than other places—in fact, rather the opposite. The relationship between the big cities and their hinterlands is one of interdependence. The article also argues that the performance of UK cities is deeply intertwined with the structure of UK economic growth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-334
JournalCambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society
Issue number2
Early online date21 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


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