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From mass production to flexible specialization: The sectoral and geographical extent of contract work in US manufacturing, 1963-1997

Book or journal references : Regional Studies, vol. 37, pp. 753-771 (2003).

Author(s) : Essletzbichler , J.

Abstract :

Over the last two decades much work in economic geography focused on a fundamental reorganization of capitalist production summarized as shift from Fordist mass production to flexible specialization. Complementing this shift to flexible forms of production is the revival of interest in Marshallian industrial districts characterized by geographically localized and tightly linked networks of small firms. Many a claim was based on anecdotal evidence in selected industries and regions. In order to strengthen the importance of these results, it is necessary to provide comprehensive empirical evidence across a broad range of sectors and regions. This paper traces the key developments in economic geography and examines empirically the extent of flexible specialization in US manufacturing. More specifically the paper focuses on one aspect of this shift and investigates the increase in contract work across all US manufacturing sectors and regions between 1963 and 1997. Employing plant level data for US manufacturing industries, this paper emphasizes the significance of the shift to flexible specialization supported by an increase in the use of contract work across a vast majority of manufacturing sectors, states and metropolitan areas. The paper also demonstrates that pronounced industrial differences prevail and that high contract work ratios explain metropolitan differences in productivity in some but not all sectors.

Keywords :

flexible specialization; subcontracting; contract work; US manufacturing; Longitudinal Research Database INDUSTRIAL; ECONOMIES; STATES; GROWTH; CITIES; INTEGRATION; TEMPORARY; LOCATION; LIMITS; LABOR

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