Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series in Economics and Institutions of Innovation,
Royal Institute of Technology, CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies

No 314: Accessibility: a useful analytical and empirical tool in spatial economics – experiences from Sweden

Charlie Karlsson () and Urban Gråsjö ()
Additional contact information
Charlie Karlsson: Jönköping International Business School and University West
Urban Gråsjö: University West

Abstract: Accessibility has for many years been a widely used tool in transportation research. Many definitions have been suggested and researchers have constructed numerous mathematical formulations to measure its value to be able to evaluate the relationships between the nature of the transport systems and the patterns of land use. Such correlations have been used especially in assessing existing transport systems and forecasting their performance to provide decision-makers with ideas about the need for investments in the transport systems. However, accessibility measures can be regarded as the spatial counterparts of discounting. The measures represent the spatial distribution of economic agents and their activities in a simple way that imposes a very clear structure upon the relationship between these agents and their activities and their environment. Various frictional effects arising from geographical distance between economic agents determine their interaction options, i.e., their options to trade, to cooperate, to learn, to commute, etc. Observing that the time sensitivities of the economic agents vary between different spatial scales (and between different economic activities) we may impose a spatial structure (e.g. local, intraregional, interregional and international), which offers opportunities to define variables in such a way that spatial dependencies can be accommodated. These newly defined variables can then be used in empirical explanations of various spatial phenomena, such as patent output, new firm formation, the emergence of new export products, and economic growth in different spatial units. We will in this paper against this background show that accessibility is an underused analytical and empirical tool in regional science with an underestimated potential. The paper contains several empirical examples where the accessibility concept has been used in previous research. These empirical studies are carried out in a Swedish context and show the applicability of the accessibility method. However, it is a general method and there is no reason why the method does not apply also for other countries.

Keywords: Accessibility; spatial models; spatial dependence; local labour markets; spillover effects; regional development

JEL-codes: C21; R11; R12; R23; R58

23 pages, June 5, 2013

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