PhD Proposal by Xi Huang

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Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Defense:




Xi Huang



On Immigration, Regional Resilience, and Local Economic Development Policy


August 31st, 2016

10:00 a.m

Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University

Room TBA




Dr. Cathy Liu (Chair) [1]

Dr. Ann-Margaret Esnard [1]

Dr. Ross Rubenstein [1]

Dr. Carlianne Patrick [2]

Dr. Juan Rogers [3]


[1] Andrew Young School of Policy, Georgia State University

[2] Department of Economics, Andrew Young School, Georgia State University

[3] School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology


The foreign-born population has increased by 32.8 percent since 2000 despite a slowdown during the 2007-2009 Great Recession (Zeigler & Camarota, 2014). This rapid growth of immigrants has brought significant attention to the issue of immigration and its various impacts from both academic and policy arenas. The economic slowdown of many regions following the recession has also galvanized discussions around sustainable economic development among urban planners and economic geographers. Research has been called for to explore and examine the factors behind regional resilience and the contribution of immigration in the face of economic challenges (Christopherson et al., 2010; Pendall et al., 2010; Lester & Nguyen, 2013; Peri, 2010).

This dissertation consists of three analyses, addressing the questions of whether immigrants have contributed to regional resilience and how the use of immigration as a key economic development strategy has affected post-recession American cities. Different from previous research that employs a singular measure of resilience, it tests economic resilience in two measures: resilience as capacities and resilience as performance. Besides Chapter 1 and Chapter 5, each chapter in the dissertation answers one research question. Chapter 2 documents regional resilience capacities from 1980 to 2007 and traces the immigration dynamics for the same period of time, followed by an attempt to draw a relationship between immigration and resilience using a fix effects model. Given that resilience capacity is multi-dimensional, it also tests which aspects of the resilience capacity is mostly accounted for by immigration. Chapter 3 examines the contribution of immigration to resilience performance in the context of an actual recession. It investigates whether the immigrant population enhances resilience to the latest Great Recession in terms of total employment and per capital income. Resilience in this chapter is measured as performance, and in two ways: the degree of downturn during the recession (resistance to the shock) and the extent to which the local economy bounces back from a downturn (resilience after the shock). In addition to baseline OLS regressions, an instrumental variable approach is employed to address the endogeneity problem of immigrants’ residential choice and local economic condition. Chapter 4 evaluates the impact of the latest local immigrant policies in three areas, namely migration patterns, local labor market (employment), and local businesses (entrepreneurship), with a focus on Rustbelt cities. It applies the synthetic control method to estimate the impacts of the Global Detroit program.

This dissertation uses data that primarily come from a database on regional resilience developed by the Building Resilience Regions research network (BRR), funded by the John D., and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The BRR database covers a broad spectrum of economic, demographic, and social change across all U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) for three decades (1980-2007), which have been made consistent across the years. The metropolitan area is the unit of analysis for this dissertation. MSA boundaries have been made consistent to compile this longitudinal dataset. Other secondary datasets include the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the online H1B annual visa data source administered by U.S. department to gauge immigrants’ employment level. These datasets provide useful information for the construction of regional economic, social, and political indicators, as well as some of the outcome variables.


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