Which is better for economic growth—specialization or diversification?  According to Jing Chen, Regional Research Institute (RRI) Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) and Ph.D. doctoral candidate in Geography, regional scientists have suggested that the answer is both—specialization and diversity can coexist in a regional economy under diversified specializations. Chen’s curiosity was piqued as to how these two opposing theories could coexist, so he began his research to empirically test this proposition. The result was a paper titled “Interpreting Economic Diversity as the Presence of Multiple Specializations.”

Chen submitted his paper to the Southern Regional Science Association for consideration for the Barry M. Moriarty Award. Entries were required to be original research by a sole author on a topic in regional science, with the author designing all maps, illustrations and audio-visual materials.

A panel of academicians and researchers recognized his scholarly work as the winning entry, presenting him with a plaque and $1,000. Chen said, “I am so excited to win this award. This paper was developed as a part of my dissertation research on economic diversity and regional development at a time when there were few empirical studies that had emphasized the coexistence of economic specialization and diversity.”

In his paper, Chen used three indices to measure regional economic diversity “to examine the relationship between economic structure and regional economic performance among 359 metropolitan statistical areas in the contiguous U.S.”  Chen also said, “The main contribution of this paper is to interpret economic diversity as the presence of multiple specializations to leverage the benefits of economic specialization and diversity simultaneously.”