Economic Geography Glossary



A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z

- S -


South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation


Southern African Development Community


Southern African Customs Union


Systems, Applications, Programs = A presently hugely popular German Management Organization System and software.

Satisficer, satisficing

A references to behaviors which are constrained by limited information and 'bounded rationality'. Satisficers' behavioral objectives are associated with finding satisfactory solutions (instead of 'optimal' solutions) to problems which, in turn, are conditioned by the individual's 'aspiration levels'. The concept of satisficing originates with H.O.Simon (1950s). [see also: Hayter, p.138]

Scope Economies

See: Economies of Scope

"Secondary Sector Activities"

Manufacturing, processing industries/activities; they are not just involved in processing raw materials into products, but also, and increasingly so, "intermediate" products into other intermediate and final products (as part of a "vertical" product chain and the general process of "roundabout production" in an increasingly specialized and sub-divided manufacturing economy. If you look up the term in Goodall's dictionary, you may want to note that his reference to a synonym "non-basic activity" is incorrect and misleading. More about that later. Otherwise, the concept had been covered in class and in H&I.

Seed-bed hypothesis

Founders of new firms benefit from locating in home or known localities (due to their own familiarity, reduction in uncertainty and information costs) [see Hayter, pp. 224-6]

(or the "SEGMENTED ECONOMY", Taylor and Thrift, 1983 +) a segmented pattern of business organizations where every segment is "conceived as a number of organizations, with similar characteristics which are both the cause and the effect of their membership of particular economic niches."


The reporting of information by (complex) corporations with which the user can judge the performance of particular, more or less narrowly defined, subdivisions of a corporation. (Scherer, 1979)

Selective closure

A form of plant closure where the decision-maker has options between different plants and where the ultimate decision is based on relative (internal and/or external) locational merits. This type of closure is "the most spatially specific type of closure" [as different from Cessation closure].
  • Type I: Firm reduces production, but other plants remain open
  • Type Ia: regional market declined or resources are depleted (external-factor orientation)
  • Type Ib: inefficient plant, old technology (internal-factor orientation)
  • Type II: Firm expands production at other sites
[See Stafford & Watts, 1991, p.428; Watts and Stafford, 1986, p.213]


Single European Market. Within EU, effort started in 1985 and formally completed January 1, 1993

Shared Vision
One of Senge's five learning disciplines for the learning organization: "building a sense of commitment in a group, by developing shared images of the future we seek to create, and the principles and guiding practices by which we hope to get there." (Senge et al., Fieldbook, p.6)

Shift & share analysis

Shimbel Index

Measure of the minimum number of links necessary to connect one node with all nodes in the network; see also: Network Measures | and here [Oxford]

Shitauke gaisha (jp) = subcontract(ed) company

Short- and long-run costs

Shunk Works (Strategy of ...)

"small groups that quietly pursue new ideas out of the organizational mainstream" (Senge, The Fifth Discipline, p.230).


Standard Industrial Trade Classification


A reference to the physical attributes of a location ("absolute location")


A reference to the "relational" attributes of a location, i.e. to the location relative to (in relationships with) other key locations ("relative location")

Smart (Cities, Highways, Cars...)

Reference to the use of micro-computers and other electronic intelligence and information technologies to facilitate the operation of modern or traditional transportation or communication infrastructures. [see Stutz, pp.335ff.]


Small and medium-sized enterprise

SOC - Social Overhead Capital

social infrastructure, such as schools, universities, hospitals, libraries

Social Capital [see also: Bowling Alone (Putnam)]

Sogo shosha (jp)

Large Japanese trading companies associated with keiretsu (enterprise groups)

Space-cost curve

Expresses the spatial variability of total production costs of a firm with a given output level. Smith (1966) superimposed this spatial cost curve on the spatial revenue curve in order to determine the "spatial margin of profitability". See also: Hayter, 1997, p.126f.

Space-Differentiating Forces

Spatial demand curve

Refers to the aggregate demand curve containing the individual demand of consumers located at different distances from the focal point of supply. In other words, demand is aggregated across space, as seen from the perspective of the supplier (and her f.o.b.prices), as if the delivered price of the good is increasing for the consumer with distance by the corresponding transport cost.
In still other words, the spatial demand curve represents the aggregate demand schedule (price/quantity demand function) of consumers distributed in space with varying distances from a given central location. "Price" includes transport costs from this location to consumers. The peculiar attribute is that the individual demand functions are based on delivered prices, whereas the supplier aggregates the demand function he is facing on the bases of f.o.b.prices. Such a demand curve would a "free(ly downward sloping) spatial demand curve" if it is not constrained by neighboring competitors.

If the original individual demand functions are uniform and linear (or convex) and the population distribution is uniform, the resulting aggregate demand functions has to be convex. [See also "free spatial demand curve", Parr & Denike (1970) and Loesch, engl. ed., p.106]

"Spatial" as different from "regional"

space: dimensional concept, measured in terms of distance or height, depth etc.; region: delineated space, a "container" of specific phenomena, on the basis of which the particular region is defined.

Spatial differentiation

Spatial entrapment

A concept used to describe the situation of women restricted to distinctly female labor markets close to children and home in the urban periphery.

Spatial interaction

An umbrella reference to all forms of flows and interdependencies in space. In the 1950s, E.L.Ullman defined the field of Geography as the discipline focusing on the study of "spatial interaction". This interpretation of the tasks of geographers seemed to clash with that of Richard Hartshorne who had focused on "areal differentiation" as the core of geographers' research concerns.

Spatial iso-outlay line

also: locational iso-outlay line or spatial iso-cost curve, etc.

This is a theoretical construct (developed by Leon Moses in 1958) used to introduce space into micro-economic production theory. The curve represents the results of an optimization process. Every point on the curve represents different locations but equal total production costs (outlays) based on varying (optimal) input combinations (and resulting varying transport costs for these inputs). In Moses' model, "each point along this curve corresponds to a particular location along the arc IJ, and shows the one combination of factors which the firm would purchase at that particular location, given the dollar expenditure, transport rates, and base prices of the inputs." (p.63) [this arc serves the purpose to keep the distance to the market constant]. Every point along this arc has its own particular ratio of delivered prices of M1 and M2 due to the changing distances (transport costs) for M1 and M2. Finding the optimum location along this arc now involves the production function (represented by isoquants). Points of tangency identify the optimal location along the arc for different level of production. [See also iso-cost curve/iso-outlay line]

Spatial margin

A line or boundary signifying the end of profitability or viability thus separating profitable from loss-making spaces.

Spatial margin of agricultural production

The boundary of a region of profitability or positive rent. Beyond this boundary, transport costs outweigh net-returns leading to net losses.

"Spatial Threshold" (or "threshold range") as different from the: "(Outer) Range of a Good or Service":

Goodall, p.391 ("range"); p.471 ("threshold") p.116 ("demand cone")

1. The "range of a good" signifies the maximum distance customers are willing to travel or incur transport costs for in order to purchase a good at a given (f.o.b.) price. The range of a good refers mainly to the demand side and is defined by the maximum distance consumers are willing to travel (or pay transport costs for) for a good or service at a given f.o.b. price at the point of supply.

2. The "threshold range" is the minimum radius of a market area needed to generate sufficient demand to support the supply of a good; it refers to the minimum (potentially also the maximum) market area which a supplier needs (or can sell to) to make his undertaking viable. More specifically, "given the equilibrium f.o.b. market price; the threshold range represents the distance to the perimeter of an area enclosing the minimum level of aggregate demand (or a minimum population) which is sufficient to permit the commercial supply of the good, i.e which permits only normal profits to be made." (Parr & Denike, 1970, p.570)

1 + 2 represent theoretical (equilibrium) concepts associated with market area analysis and central place theory: The range has to be larger than the threshold range.

The threshold is usually associated with the intersections between (or the point of tangency of) the spatial demand function and the downward- sloping average-cost curve (for the f.o.b.- case).

The significance of these concepts relates to the equilibrium conditions for market areas. (i.e. what kinds of market areas we would expect under defined conditions). What is important here is that these concepts allow us to introduce the full gamut of supply-side (cost) and demand considerations and differentiations, related to the the particular product and its production/supply as well as differences in preferences and ability to pay among consumers as well as differences in transport costs and demand densities.

Special economic zones (SEZ) [China]

Spread city

A term used e.g. by the New York Regional Plan Association, defining it (negatively) as "It is not a true city because it lacks centers, nor a suburb because it is not a satellite of any city, nor is it truly rural because it is loosely covered with houses and urban facilities." (Regional Plan Association, Spread City: Projection of Development Trends, September 1962, p.3)

(Rhieman, Ackoff): Concept in a socially oriented open-systems interpretation of the organization. Stakeholders are all those claimants inside and outside the firm who have a vested interest in the organization or any of its specific problems and solutions. (Mason and Mittrof, 1981)

Splashing ("industrial splashing")

A term used by J.Okezie C.Onyemelukwe (in Ian Hamilton, ed., Industrial Change, 1978, p.129) to refer to the establishment of multiple branch plants across the landscape (of Nigeria) by expatriate firms (in this case to reduce costs by opening cotton-ginning centers).

Splash page

The entry page to a Website. The page uses flashy graphics to attract attention and often automatically refreshes into the actual home page or entry page to the substance of the site.

(Das technologische Patt, 1975/79) Title of a book by G.O.Mensch; suggests a long-term cyclical nature of technological innovation and the arrival of another stagnation.

Standard of living

The concept has moved from a more or less strictly pecuniary interpretation of well-being to one which incorporates non-pecuniary components, thereby approaching the economist's concept of utility as expressed in a utility function. Dissatisfaction with using the simple measure of real per-capita GDP has lead to use of indicators which include length of life, level of education, and access to jobs, infrastructure and amenities. Resources | See also:

Statistics [Online Text]

Sticky place

A concept used in industrial geography to refer to the geographic consequences of inertial forces which prevent hyper-mobility (in an increasingly "slippery production space") from completely obliterating production assembles in space. (A.Markusen, 1999, p.98). "Stickiness connotes both ability to attract as well as to keep, like fly tape, and thus it applies to both new and established regions." Ann Markusen, "Sticky Places in Slippery Space: A Typology of Industrial Districts," Economic Geography, 72(3), 293-313. Industrial districts provide prime examples for such "sticky places". See also: "industrial inertia".

Strategic alliance

An agreement between companies for the purpose of achieving a common goal usually in the form of sharing complementary strengths, achieving cost efficiencies, or adjusting to rapid technological or market changes.

Strategic decision-making

As different from programmed, routine decisions, strategic decisions tend to be relatively infrequent, not repetitive, involve the commitment of considerable resources (capital), and have long-time horizons with significant levels of uncertainty. Readings: Hayter, 1997, p.143.


Alfred Chandler's definition: "determination of the basic long-term goals and objectives of an enterprise, and the adoption of courses of action and the allocation of resources necessary for carrying out these goals." [from: Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of Industrial Enterprise, 1962; 1966-paperback edition, p.16]

The concept of (competitive) strategy plays a crucial role in Michael Porter's work on "Competitive Advantage". Porter suggests that businessmen face the choice between three arch-typical generic strategies:

  1. to become the cost leader in the industry
  2. to differentiate products and markets and thereby offer premium value to customers (through linkages and synergy)
  3. to concentrate on a niche market in which profitability cannot be eroded by competitors.


When we refer to "structure", we tend to refer to the relations between the components of a whole. Such "relations" may be
  • simply of a "proportional" or "statistical" nature (in the sense, e.g., that the relative importance [size] of one component depends on the relative importance [size] of the remaining components) or they may refer to
  • "interaction", incl. "spatial interaction", i.e. some flow or transaction is taking place between the components .
Thus, "structure" refers to both, the internal "composition" of a whole or system, as well as to the interactive relations between the system's components.

Now, we want to add another common meaning of "structure". "Structure" tends to imply relative stability or permanence, i.e. if there are changes in the structure ("structural change") such changes would be slower than the changes which occur within or around such a (more or less) "given" structure. Compositional or interaction structures are identified in economic analysis as facets or phenomena which tend to change only relatively slowly or only in the "long-run". Thus, for certain types of ("short-run") analysis, they can be assumed not to change at all, i.e. to remain constant, while there are other changes which are ocurring within such given structures. Location quotients, multipliers (in the basic/non-basic model), the "beta index" (in network analysis) or input coefficients (in input-output analysis) represent masures of such structures. Of course, such structures do tend to change over longer periods of time, but in the meantime, our analysis is made easier because we can concentrate on those changes or stimuli which change more upruptly or can be influenced more readily and/or they change in a way which is not well understood (and thus need our attention).

Typically, we try to exploit this assumption of a "given structure" in (short-run analysis) to the fullest before we then explore changes in these structures (in more long-run analysis). Year to year changes in regional employment are typically analysed by assuming "given structures", while we tend to focus on structural changes (e.g. those resulting from technological changes) when we are interested in true "regional economic development" and, for example, the processes associated with sectoral employment shifts ("Three-Sector-Hypothesis").

Thus, the two important attributes of the concept of "structure" are

  1. the existence of internal relations, either in the form of
    1. a proportional or relative relationship (component parts of a whole relate to each other because their relative size or importance may change simply by the change of another component (internal differentiation), or
    2. a functional interdependence or physical interaction between component parts
    within an aggregate whole, such as a population or a regional economy.
  2. the relative permanence or stability of these relations.
Structural Change' would therefore then refer to relatively long-term / slow/ gradual changes in such internal composition and/or pattern of interdependence.

A. Chandler's definition of (organizational) structure: "the design of organization through which the enterprise is administered" (Strategy and Structure, 1966, p.16)

Important semantic clarifications were provided by Fritz Machlup.


Work contracted by a principal to a third-party "subcontractor", who has to perform according to specifications. A distinction has been made on the basis of different motivations for subcontracting between
  1. "capacity subcontracting" [where the subcontractor tends to absorb the swings in demand allowing the contractor to use its own capacity for the same kind of production with relative stability]
  2. "specialty subcontracting" [where the subcontractor performs a specialized function not performed by the contractor]
[see also: Roger Hayter, Dynamics of Industrial Location, 1997, p.323]

Subsistence agriculture

An agricultural production system designed to satisfy the consumption needs of the farmer's household with no or little ability to produce a surplus.


the extent to which we are dealing with fixed or variable/ flexible/ substitutable relationships between functional links on the input and/or output side of a "production function" or "consumption function". In other words, are the spatially significant "recipes" given and inflexible (rigid) or are they themselves a function of scale or locational attributes? [Alfred Weber's analysis does NOT consider such substitutability which was introduced later into the location-theoretical discourse by Andreas Predoehl, Walter Isard and Leon Moses]

Substitution - The principle of substitution

Part of production and demand analyses. Inputs, outputs or consumer goods are substituted ("traded-off") within the constraints set by the production function or consumption function until the combination yielding the highest profits, lowest costs or highest utility is reached [see also: Hayter, pp.117-9]

Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics, Book 5, ch.III, #3, p.284:
"As far as the knowledge and business enterprise of the producers reach, they in each case choose those factors of production which are best for their purpose; the sum of the supply prices of those factors which are used is, as a rule, less than the sum of the supply prices of any other set of factors which could be substituted for them; and whenever it appears to the producers that this is not the case, they will, as a rule, set to work to substitute the less expensive method. And further on we shall see how in a somewhat similar way society substitutes one undertaker for another who is less efficient in proportion to his charges. We may call this, for convenience of reference, The principle of substitution."

Book 5, Chapter IV #3, p.295:
At the beginning of his undertaking, and at every successive stage, the alert business man strives so to modify his arrangements as to obtain better results with a given expenditure, or equal results with a less expenditure. In other words, he ceaselessly applies the principle of substitution, with the purpose of increasing his profits; and, in so doing, he seldom fails to increase the total efficiency of work, the total power over nature which man derives from organization and knowledge.

Suburban Activity Centers (SAC)

Sustainable development

A system of resource use that protects non-renewable resources and the environment.

Systems Thinking
The last of Senge's five learning disciplines of his learning organization: "A way of thinking about, and a language for describing and understanding, the forces and interrelationships that shape the behavior of systems... helps us to see how to change systems more effectively, and to act more in tune with the larger processes of the natural and economic world." (Senge et al., Fieldbook, p.6)

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z

Return to Econ & Bus Geog || Glossaries
1999 []