Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

David Earnest

Committee Member

Simon Serfaty

Committee Member

Larry Filer


This study seeks to understand the differences in post-industrial redevelopment among the cities of Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. Part of the so-called "rust belt," these three cities experienced industrial decline from the 1960s through the 1980s, largely as a result of the economic globalization of heavy industry. Intensive manufacturing and output had come to a screeching halt, unemployment skyrocketed, outmigration ensued, and each metropolitan area faced formidable challenges to convert to service-oriented industries. Over the past twenty years, these cities, and the regions that encompass them, have begun to redevelop, although unevenly. At a glance, the Pittsburgh region appears to be regenerating better than Cleveland and Buffalo. How well has each city post-industrialized? Why are there differences?

I hypothesize that differences in the dependent variable—post-industrializationcan be partly explained by three independent variables—regulatory burden, size of service sector prior to deindustrialization, and capital accumulation. These three hypotheses are tested using a comparative and qualitative research design informed by the liberal institutionalist school of thought. The findings have implications for global deindustrialized cities struggling to post-industrialize.

Ultimately, I find that Pittsburgh has economically outperformed its rust belt counterparts because of its lower regulatory burden, more robust service sector prior to deindustrialization, which insulated the region from the shock of the rapid decline of steel, and higher availability of venture capital.


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