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How far do England's second-order cities emulate London as human-capital ‘escalators’?

Champion, Tony, Coombes, Mike and Gordon, Ian R. ORCID: 0000-0002-2170-8193 (2014) How far do England's second-order cities emulate London as human-capital ‘escalators’? Population, Space and Place, 20 (5). 421 - 433. ISSN 1544-8444

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Identification Number: 10.1002/psp.1806


In the urban resurgence accompanying the growth of the knowledge economy, second-order cities appear to be losing out to the principal city, especially where the latter is much larger and benefits from substantially greater agglomeration economies. The view that any city can make itself attractive to creative talent seems at odds with the idea of a country having just one 'escalator region' where the rate of career progression is much faster, especially for in-migrants. This paper takes the case of England, with its highly primate city-size distribution, and tests how its second-order cities (in size order, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Bristol, Sheffield, Liverpool, Nottingham, and Leicester) compare with London as human-capital escalators. The analysis is based on the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Survey of linked census records for 1991-2001 and uses one key indicator of upward social mobility - the transition from White Collar Non-core to White Collar Core. For non-migrants, the transition rate for the second-order cities combined is found to fall well short of London's, but in one case - Manchester - the rate is significantly higher than the rest of the country outside the Greater South East. Those moving to the second-order cities during the decade experienced much stronger upward social mobility than their non-migrants, but this 'migrant premium' was generally similar to that for London, suggesting that it results from people moving only after they have secured a better job. Second-order cities, therefore, cannot rely on the speculative migration of talented people but need suitable jobs ready for them to access.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 John Wiley & Sons
Divisions: Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2013 13:31
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2024 16:24
Projects: RES 348-25-0004, 30112
Funders: Spatial Economic Research Centre by the Economic and Social Research Council, Welsh Assembly Government, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills

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