How Seattle Transformed Itself Using Human Capital & The UW

Edward Glaeser uses his NY Times Economix blog to make a fascinating case for the recent transformation of Seattle’s economy chiefly via the consolidation of human capital–a largely local and spatial argument for economic success in a global economy. Citing the UW (along with Microsoft, Starbuck’s, Amazon, etc) as key drivers of the local economy, Glaeser argues that:

A great paradox of our age is that despite the declining cost of connecting across space, more people are clustering together in cities. The explanation of that strange fact is that globalization and technological change have increased the returns on being smart, and humans get smart by being around other smart people.

Dense, smart cities like Seattle succeed by attracting smart people who educate and employ one another.

Edward L. Glaeser: How Seattle Transformed Itself –

Cholera in Haiti: 800,000 cases?

An article that is forthcoming in The Lancet concludes that there will have been a prevalence of nearly 800,000 cases of cholera in Haiti by the end of November, 2011–nearly double the number projected by WHO. WHO’s estimates have themselves been increasing dynamically and are not based on any knowledge of transmission dynamics–in short, they are educated guesses. The reference paper, posted online on March 16, 2011 ( is based upon a detailed knowledge of transmission dynamics and interventions, and is a recursive mathematical model by two well known disease modelers (Andrews JR and Basu S. Transmission dynamics and control of cholera in Haiti: an epidemic model. Lancet DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60273-0) Geographers and spatial epidemiologists will recognize that the model is a multiregional form of disease model that is based on the number of susceptible people, infected individuals, and recovered individuals (“SIR” models) that have been the basis for growth models for decades. Moreover, and perhaps *most importantly*, anticipated early declines in cholera incidence in the coming months are predicted to be part of the natural course of the epidemic, and not the result of any specific public health interventions.

Cholera is a waterborne bacterial disease, transmitted via the fecal-oral route, that can progress from asymptomatic stages to death within a period of less than 18-24 hours. The only effective treatment is oral or intravenous rehydration using physiologically balanced water/electrolyte solutions–with the electrolytes in clean water only. When available, this can be combined with oral or IV doxycycline, ciprofloxacin, or other appropriate antibiotics. Oral rehydration in this form–a fundamentally simple and low-tech treatment–was devised by Dr. Richard Cash of the Harvard School of Public Health, credited with saving millions of lives.

Association of American Geographers, Jonathan Mayer, in Discussions with National Institutes of Health

Several prominent geographers who do research on health and disease, led by the AAG, are working collaboratively with several institutes at NIH to explore establishing a spatial analysis and GIS infrastructure that would be cross-institute and cross-center at NIH. UW Professor of Geography and Epidemiology Jonathan Mayer is one of the 5 leaders of this group. NIH provides most of the funding for biomedical research in the US. The first conference of NIH officers, extramural researchers, and intramural researchers from NIH was held on Feb. 22-23 in Rockville, MD. The AAG has submitted a grant to NIH to continue these discussions with 3 further conferences around specific themes.

Mapping America: Every City, Every Block

The New York Times has a new interactive feature that enables you to construct maps using census data gathered between 2005 and 2009. You can display maps for race and ethnicity, income, housing, and education, and can look up any city or zipcode. Play around with different cities. Anyone who as taken an urban geography class or two might see traces of the Hoyt Model in the map of racial distribution in Chicago. Or, for those of you interested in housing, check out a map of the change in mean home value since 2000 for the United States as a whole to see where home prices have risen vs. where they have fallen. There are also a few interesting articles analyzing some of the recent census trends in, for example, the suburbanization of immigrant populations, and national highs and lows for income, poverty, commuting, and education.