What is deindustrialization, and how does it happen? Read about a couple of examples of deindustrialization, including what happened in the ‘Rust Belt.’ Then take a quiz to see how much you know.
What Is Deindustrialization?
You probably have heard of the Industrial Revolution, a time when manufacturing and heavy industry increased in parts of the U.
S. and the U.K.
in the 18th and 19th centuries. This was a time when factories flourished and all types of things we use on a day-to-day basis, from cotton to automobiles, though of course those came later.Well, deindustrialization is just the opposite. It’s a process in which the industrial activity in a country or region is removed or reduced because of a major economic or social change.
There are many reasons why this can happen.Overall, deindustrialization usually occurs because a particular industrial activity is no longer economically viable. For example, maybe a region containing lots of steelworks can no longer compete with cheaper steel from abroad. When that happens, those steelworks are forced to go out of business.
It can also happen simply because the focus of a society changes. Perhaps fewer people want to work in a particular industry anymore, or the pollution created by the industry is no longer desirable, and so there are no longer any economic incentives provided by the government. One common thing that happens to many societies is that they go through an industrial period and, as the wealth of the country or region increases, the emphasis shifts to services and more luxury goods.
The biggest example of deindustrialization in the United States is in what’s known as the Rust Belt, the region in the upper Northeastern United States and Midwest that was once home to booming industry, but is now full of abandoned or rusted industrial factories. These areas thrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, partly because of the Great Lakes, paved roads, canals and railroads that allowed them to get the goods to market. Some of the cities that saw the biggest booms were Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland.However, the boom began to wane in the late 20th century.
As the steel and iron industries declined, manufacturing was moved to southeastern states that had cheaper labor, and eventually abroad because of free-trade policies that made it possible for companies to pay even less for labor and other things. The rise of automation also made it hard for these industries to adapt, because such automation requires a large initial investment.Contrary to the claims of some, often for political reasons, the unions and government involvement had very little to do with deindustrialization. By far the main cause was increasing competition from cheap sources abroad, and little could have prevented that in the era of free-trade.
Results of Deindustrialization
When industry shuts down, there are obvious repercussions. People move out of the area, and those who stay but are unable to find work fall into poverty. Buildings and infrastructure fall into disrepair due to the lack of a tax base from the former industries. Many cities in the Rust Belt are dealing with these consequences, such as Detroit, who went from one of the most prosperous cities in the nation to filing for bankruptcy in 2013.The populations of many formerly booming industrial cities have declined dramatically over the last 15 years. For example, Chicago lost 2.
7 million people between 2000 and 2012. In percentage terms, Detroit was probably the most dramatic, losing 25% of its population in the same period. The same trends can be seen in other parts of the developed world. For example, many of the mines and steelworks of the United Kingdom closed during the 1970s and 1980s for a lot of the same reasons.However, deindustrialization does have its upsides.
It can make way for high-tech industry, like renewable energy, nanotechnology and electronics, including everything from televisions to smart phones. In fact, Detroit has recently become the fastest growing region in the US for high-tech businesses, reaching 14.8% of the city’s employment in 2015. Some have even suggested that Detroit could be the next Silicon Valley. Cities like Manchester, NH; Baltimore, MD; and Columbus, OH are also higher in tech jobs than most cities.
For example, high tech jobs make up 12.4% of all jobs in Manchester.It can also lead to an area becoming far less polluted, and more of a pleasant place to live. During the steel boom, many industrial cities were covered with thick dark clouds of smoke. Those same cities are like a breath of fresh air today. The city of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, for example, went from being known as the steel city, one of the most polluted places in the country, to being one of the cleanest cities in the country today.Supporters of free trade argue that these kinds of changes are unavoidable.
Industries and jobs are always changing, and trying to fight this trend can cause poor economic growth, which isn’t good for anyone. Whether you agree with that or not, it’s pretty clear that cities have to be prepared to adapt to changing situations in order to survive.
Deindustrialization is a process in which the industrial activity in a country or region is removed or reduced because of a major economic or social change.
This happens for a number of reasons: competition from elsewhere, less available skills, fewer incentives, less desire for polluting industries, and the rise of automation.Examples of deindustrialization include the Rust Belt of the United States and other developed countries and cities that went through similar experiences, like Sheffield in the United Kingdom. The Rust Belt contains many closed and rusted factories that were booming with activity during much of the early and mid-20th century. These cities include Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.
The population of those cities has declined dramatically since the industries shut down. But changing economic conditions are perhaps unavoidable, and it’s hard to imagine returning to the pollution and smoky skies of that era.