Meet Mark Partridge: Professor, Swank Chair, and the “Most Influential Author in Regional Science”

We recently sat down with Mark Partridge, a regional economist, AEDE professor, and Ohio State’s C. William Swank Chair in Rural-Urban Policy to talk about his work, the Swank program and some of his favorite places to visit across the globe. Check out our Q & A with him.

In a recent study you were ranked as the most influential author working in the field of regional science. What trends do you see in the future in this field?

Regional science and regional economics are very germane as tools to help direct future policy issues that will guide society. For example, issues of income inequality and poverty are not just important political issues in the U.S. but they are important global issues that drive long-term economic growth and how political institutions adapt to solve pressing socioeconomic challenges.

Moving forward, society is increasingly interested in issues such as climate change and mass migrations after traumatic shocks such as war, economic volatility, or climatic events. These have long been key issues that have dominated regional science. For instance, issues of how people migrate in response to climatic conditions and environmental conditions have been studied by regional scientists since the 1970s, forming what should be the basis of current research on how climate change will affect mass migration.

Going forward, I think regional science will continue to focus on the major issues that face society. One issue that I think will remain at the forefront is helping local regions create sustainable development that is inclusive for their residents.

How has working at a large research institution like Ohio State helped you further develop your research portfolio?

Being at The Ohio State University has been so rewarding for my research. I have been exposed to so many brilliant scholars across the university, allowing me to learn from many different fields and viewpoints.

Probably the most rewarding aspect are the ideas and enthusiasm that our students possess. I enjoy teaching but it is the most fun when students teach the professor. I have learned so much from their ideas and unique views.

What is the subject matter of your most recent research and what impact do you hope to see from this research?

Much of my research has been on how economic shocks such as the development of new industries or world economic volatility affects local communities and their regions. This is demonstrated with my current work on France, the U.S., or China, as the global economy produces winners and losers.

Another key theme is my current work on income inequality and poverty and how policy can work to reduce their negative effects on the economy, well-being, and on governance.

Another key area of my current research is assessing how the recent shale boom and the "old" carbon economy such as coal have affected local areas that have experienced development of extractive industries.

What has been the greatest accomplishment of the C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy since you became the program’s Chair?

There are many accomplishments that I am proud of in my work as the Swank Program Chair.

One is the relationships and connections that I have made in my outreach work with key stakeholders such as Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio County Commissioners, and various education and workforce groups. Closely related to this are the relationships that I have made with my Swank assistants in developing policy briefs and trying to shape better policies for Ohio and its communities.

Another is my outreach work on energy development. While many noted the "boom" aspects of the initial rush for drilling, I have tried to caution communities to look more at the long-term in that energy cycles are highly volatile and to plan for not only the boom but also for the inevitable bust. I believe that Ohio communities have heard many of these arguments and there have been fewer problems as the energy economy cooled off.

Another is my research on how rural and urban areas are economically interdependent and the need to develop regional policies for better economic outcomes. One area that illustrates the impact of this research is the recent push by international development organizations such as the World Bank and OECD to consider focusing development efforts on the smaller and intermediate sized cities.

Finally, I am also proud of the international reputation we have developed for the program. When I came to OSU, I was charged with building an international footprint and I believe that we have succeeded.

What is your favorite country that you have traveled to and why?

I have been fortunate to visit many countries for my work. Yet, I caution people considering international travel that I am not a good person to consult on things to do. A culinary pleasure for me is a burger and fries. While abroad, I spend most of my time thinking about a country's economic development and what can be learned from those patterns.

The country that fascinates me the most is China. In China, you see the hustle and bustle that I suspect characterized the remarkable rise of large American cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but on a much larger scale. Likewise, China is experiencing the same growing pains as the U.S. did, such as dramatic transformation with major winners and losers. One key difference is the U.S. developed with a much more hands-off approach, while China has been heavily guided by the hand of their central government. It will be fascinating to see how each approach fares in the long run.