Explaining the Ecological Model of Urban Structure

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A picture may be "worth a thousand words" but when using diagrams for professional or scholarly purposes technical descriptions can be critical. An image without a thorough explanation increases the risk of the reader failing to recognize the importance of the concept or making false assumptions of the image's meaning.  

The image above which was produced by Ernest Burgess in 1925 has since become known in urban geography as the Concentric Zone Model. The model which was devised to show residential differentiation and neighborhood change of 1920s Chicago is widely recognized in the field as one of the most influential models of urban structure. 

The theory behind the model is that as a city grows in population so does economic competition, division of labor, and the complementary ecological processes of centralization and decentralization. While centralization occurs as a result of agglomeration economies (the economic advantages gained by similar companies clustering together among necessary service, financial, and utility services), decentralization occurs as other economic functions move toward the periphery. 

Other Sources: Knox, Paul L., and Linda McCarthy. Urbanization: an Introduction to Urban Geography. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. Print.

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1 Comment

Hey Zach,

I like how you started your blog post with the familiar quote that a picture is worth a thousand words, but despite your emphasis that a technical description is crucial, I still do not fully understand the model shown. I am torn whether or not to believe the model describes the geographic location of the economic sectors described or if it shows the portion of people living in each economic sector. The zones show how people are aggregated in different economic sectors but I just can't seem to grasp urban effects of each zone. If you could clarify this for me, I would appreciate it because I find the idea of your blog interesting.



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