Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Urban Economies
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Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Urban Economies

Edited by Peter Karl Kresl and Jaime Sobrino

In this timely Handbook, seventeen renowned contributors from Asia, the Americas and Europe provide chapters that deal with some of the most intriguing and important aspects of research methodologies on cities and urban economies.
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Chapter 15: Evaluating the urban milieu of an individual city

William F. Lever


The Oxford English dictionary defines milieu as “environment, state of life, social surroundings”. An urban milieu thus comprises the set of contextual characteristics, locational, economic, political and social, which influence the economic development of an individual city. More specifically, the term milieux, in an urban context, is seen as relating to that set of networks which may play a pivotal role in the emergence of economic clusters. They can also have an important influence on the dynamics of economic growth. Thus the milieux literature notes how two entities (usually manufacturer/service provider and customer) can, through dialogue, improve the product/service offered and/or its use (Potts, 2002; Gertler, 1995). Milieux can also be defined in terms of the degree of economic structural specialization through the formation of clusters which generate pools of labour and the subcontracting networks which underpin economies of scale or informal networks which encourage innovation (Begg et al., 2002; Glaeser et al., 1992). This quite narrow definition of the milieux of cities can be subsumed within broader paradigms which encompass a range of dimensions – spatial, economic, cultural, informational and political. Spatial milieux, at their most basic, refer to the location in space of cities or economic establishments measured in terms of the costs of overcoming distance to other cities or linked economic establishments.

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