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UC Berkeley Press Release

Weir to explore regional challenges, solutions

– The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has awarded a $400,000 grant to the University of California, Berkeley's Margaret Weir, a professor of sociology and political science, for a program investigating how regions can successfully meet often staggering economic and demographic challenges.

The 18-month program that begins in spring 2005 will produce background papers and new quantitative, multi-dimensional measures for determining the success of various regions, said Weir. Every region faces many of the same basic challenges with localized differences and "success is going to look different from different locations," she said.

This grant will aid in developing a proposal for a second phase of primary empirical research.

Weir and her fellow researchers will evaluate regional responses to rapid economic growth that produce benefits as well as strains on traffic, the environment, housing and infrastructure. They also will explore prolonged economic decline typically accompanied by lower tax revenues, job losses, and a decline in the number of skilled workers.

On the demographic side, the researchers will look at large-scale immigration and a suburbanized scattering of poverty, along with related patterns of strain on government services, housing and public infrastructure.

The researchers are not setting out to promote a model of a single, massive regional government institution, said Weir, a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

"We'd like to be more forward looking and help regions understand how to look at future strategies," she said. "There's more interest in coming together and building connections and coalitions without changing existing government structure."

Researchers will come from a range of fields -- including economics, planning, sociology and political science. Participating institutions include UC Santa Cruz, Harvard University, Cornell University, the Brookings Institution, State University of New York at Buffalo, and Cleveland State University.

The program will be administered by UC Berkeley's Institute for Urban and Regional Development.