Panel Paper: Evergreen Economies: Institutions, Industries, and Issues in the Green Economy

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 3:40 PM
Plaza I (Ritz Carlton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Laurie Nijaki, University of Michigan
This paper examines the burgeoning “green economy” movement at the sub-national scale. “Green jobs” are arguably a unique window on, a lesser explored aspect of, a potential indicator of success, and a way of anchoring the discourse of sustainability’s trilogy of equity, economic, and environmental values. Drawing from a predominately institutional perspective, I utilize mixed methods to examine two primary and interrelated research questions. First, what institutional and governance structure is emerging to facilitate the adoption of “green jobs” strategies and policies? Who are the critical players at the sub-national scale? And second, from a policy and planning driven standpoint, what economic development and environmental measures (or “green jobs strategies”) are the ideal or realized deliverables of this emergent governance structure? What are the achievable outputs of these efforts; or what are the successes and failures of such policy approaches? Although there is an established literature around sustainability, there is little scholarship and actionable policies around the “green economy” despite a flurry of recent political rhetoric and a myriad of imagined opportunities for mutually-beneficial ends.

This research seeks to begin to bridge this gap. First, I utilize regression analysis of the 55 most populous, domestic cities and corollary metropolitan statistical areas in an examination of the distribution of “green employment” as defined by the recent Brookings Institution study (Brookings, 2011).  Through this approach, I identify and explain a compelling range of institutional factors attributing to differences in the quantity and diversity of “green employment.” Through a content analysis, I also provide a quantification of the way in which the term “green jobs” has been increasingly integrated into each city’s municipal website. I thereby identify the manner through which “green jobs” have been referenced within the city’s policy platform and also identify specific “green jobs initiatives.”  By linking this discussion with “green employment” levels, I provide a typology of metropolitan areas. Second, I utilize case study analysis of several metropolitan areas to examine the relationship between institutions--including government agencies, policies, and nonprofit alliances-- and the prevalence and type of “green employment” within several metropolitan statistical areas domestically. In doing so, I also develop a framework for quantifying and identifying “green economic activities” (including the development of a “green economy” framework applicable to the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) code) that I believe is replicable across metropolitan statistical areas. Not all cities are equally positioned for the same vision of “green jobs.” I identify a package of policies and programs that can be employed; I link such a package to the institutional reality of disparate cities. The research contributes to the theory of sustainable development, as well as provides rigor and depth to the practical application of “green economy” goals for cities and regions aiming to bolster “green employment” and currently faced with a dearth of methods and policies for quantifying “green employment,” identifying areas of opportunity, and developing effective policy mechanisms to bolster “green employment” within their jurisdictions.

Full Paper: