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Traditional entrepreneur networks and regional resilience

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The jobless recovery of the Great Recession has led policymakers and citizens alike to ask what can be done to better protect regions from the cascading effects of an economic

The jobless recovery of the Great Recession has led policymakers and citizens alike to ask what can be done to better protect regions from the cascading effects of an economic downturn. Economic growth strategies that aim to redevelop a waterfront for tourism or attract high growth companies to the area, for example, have left regions vulnerable by consolidating resources in just a few industry sectors or parts of town. A promising answer that coincided with growing interest in regional innovation policy has been to promote entrepreneurship for bottom-up, individual-led regional development. However, these policies have also failed to maximize the potential for bottom-up development by focusing on high skill entrepreneurs and high tech industry sectors, such as green energy and nanotechnology. This dissertation uses the extended case method to determine whether industry cluster theory can be usefully extended from networks of high skill innovators to entrepreneurs in traditional trades. It uses U.S. Census data and in-person interviews in cluster and non-cluster neighborhoods in Dayton, Ohio to assess whether traditional entrepreneurs cluster and whether social networks explain high rates of neighborhood self-employment. Entrepreneur interviews are also conducted in Raleigh, North Carolina to explore regional resilience by comparing the behavior of traditional entrepreneurs in the ascendant tech-hub region of Raleigh and stagnant Rustbelt region of Dayton. The quantitative analysis documents, for the first time, a minor degree of neighborhood-level entrepreneur clustering. In interviews, entrepreneurs offered clear examples of social networks that resemble those shown to make regional clusters successful, and they helped clarify that a slightly larger geography may reveal more clustering. Comparing Raleigh and Dayton entrepreneurs, the study found few differences in their behavior to explain the regions' differing long-term economic trends. However, charitable profit-seeking and trial and error learning are consistent behaviors that may distinguish traditional, small scale entrepreneurs from larger export-oriented business owners and contribute to a region's ability to withstand recessions and other shocks. The research informs growing policy interest in bottom-up urban development by offering qualitative evidence for how local mechanics, seamstresses, lawn care businesses and many others can be regional assets. Future research should use larger entrepreneur samples to systematically test the relationship between entrepreneur resilience behaviors to regional economic outcomes.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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Holding up half the sky: a feminist investigation into the making of the Chinese urban female entrepreneur

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This dissertation focused on the links among micro-enterprise development (MD), social capital building, and the accompanying social lives of Chinese female entrepreneurs in two China's urban areas—Nanjing and Haikou. It

This dissertation focused on the links among micro-enterprise development (MD), social capital building, and the accompanying social lives of Chinese female entrepreneurs in two China's urban areas—Nanjing and Haikou. It engaged with a few important discussions concerning China’s liberal politics during the reform era, the global trend of neo-liberal capitalism, and the social construction of a new worker-subject—the Chinese urban female entrepreneur shaped by the hybrid marriage of state politics and global capital. The research findings from this research project contributed to the tradition of feminist theories, which endeavors to explore the relationship between neo-liberalism and gender. In particular, gender was found to concretize the ways in which neo-liberal ideological forces have attempted to capture and exploit the productivity of women’s labor

Drawing upon the data from in-depth interviews, participatory observations, and secondary data gathering, I examined the diffusion of the Western-centric concept and phenomena of social capital building in order to answer the question how Chinese women's life was inscribed in the larger context of China's relationship to global capitalism. My research findings manifested that the respondents considered affections (e.g., inter-dependence, obligation, and mutual trust) to be the foundation of establishing and maintaining their social networks regardless of the government's emphasis on market principles and the utility-based social capital conception. This opened up a new way of re-theorizing social capital. This dissertation also focused on how China’s integration with the global economy has affected women’s social identity construction. It emphasized the interaction between gender and class as one of the most salient sites where ideal citizens of China are imagined. Drawing from the perspectives of the respondents, I found that femininity has never been eliminated by the Chinese government. It has existed in China’s MD to challenge the government’s attempt of promoting the agendered (gender-neutral), universal model of women’s participation in self-employment. Moreover, I asserted that class was individualized while penetrating into other dimensions of identity (especially gender). The transformed dimensions of identity constituted a set of stratification schemes that constantly reshuffled social stratifications for maximizing the state’s profits from the control of citizens.

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Date Created
  • 2015