Economic Development: People Vs. Place Strategies (Part 1)

The goal of economic development is complex and multifaceted.  It involves the revitalization of places that are rundown as well as the enhancement of social and economic mobility for people in the area.  The big question is whether economic development is about creating vibrant places to enhance the lives of the people living there or whether it is about improving the well-being of the people who live there to create a sense of place and community.

Cities often take three approaches in urban revitalization. A people-oriented strategy helps people without regard to where they live.  A place-based people strategy uses place-specific strategies to enhance the well-being of the people who live there.  A pure place-based strategy enhances the physical landscape and architectural design to improve the economic potential of a place without regard to the people who live there.

People-Oriented Strategy

Grounded on the idea that poor people with low skills need assistance regardless of whether they live, the goal is moving people from welfare to work.  Assumptions are that people need to have access to jobs and that people vote with their feet.  If they are not happy where they are, they should move to somewhere better.

This strategy is focused on human capital and improving access and mobility for individuals.  Examples include: education assistance, job training, housing assistance, relocation assistance and addressing skills gap and education gap.

Placed-Based People Strategy

With the premise that people cannot be separated from place, and strategies to combat poverty must treat individuals in the context of their community, the goal is to strengthen community institutions and enhance the standard of living for residents.  This strategy assumes that jobs need to be accessible to people and that community and place play an important role in people’s well-being.

This strategy is similar to people-based strategies, but the goal is to help people within a defined, targeted geography.  Examples include: job training for only city residents, housing assistance for a specific neighborhood and career counseling for university students.

Written by Jeff Khau who is an Analyst at RSG