Giuliano honored for scholarly contributions to regional science

January 11, 2018

By Cristy Lytal

Genevieve Giuliano

When USC Price School of Public Policy Professor Genevieve Giuliano was named the 2017 recipient of the Walter Isard Award for Scholarly Achievement from the North American Regional Science Council (NARSC), she called it “a very big surprise.”

“It’s a very prestigious award — it goes to people all over the world, and the list of prior winners is very impressive, so it’s not something that I ever expected,” Giuliano said. “I’m thrilled.”

Named for celebrated scholar Walter Isard, the award honors researchers who have made significant theoretical and methodological contributions to the field of regional science, which is the study of the economics and geography of regions. The award was presented at the NARSC conference in Vancouver this past November; however, Giuliano was unable to attend to receive the honor in person.

“Walter Isard founded the field of regional science,” said Professor Marlon Boarnet, chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Spatial Analysis at USC Price, and fellow of the Regional Science Association International, which includes NARSC. “What we recognize as quantitative geography, urban economics and economic geography today owes much to Isard’s leadership.”

“This award signals the highest level of scholarly leadership, and the 34 award winners include the most distinguished scholars in the field. Professor Giuliano’s leadership over the years makes her an obvious choice for this very high honor,” Boarnet added. “She has shaped thinking in transportation scholarship throughout her career and has mentored many of the leading scholars in the field today. This is a high honor, and very well deserved.”

Examining the ‘spatial structure’ of cities

Giuliano – who holds the Margaret and John Ferraro Chair in Effective Local Government at USC Price and directs the METRANS Transportation Center – has dedicated her academic career to studying Los Angeles and many other metropolitan regions around the world.

“I’ve always been interested in what I’d call the spatial structure of cities, and in how transportation relates to the way cities are structured or organized,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of work on that relationship.”

She has proposed that cities have multiple employment centers, making them polycentric. And while many people have speculated that information and telecommunications technologies will dissolve these centers and make cities more dispersed, there is no real-world evidence of this trend.

“As it turns out, we humans seem to like each other,” Giuliano said. “And even though we’re all shopping on Amazon, we’re finding other ways to gather with one another.”

Giuliano has also done work on the relationship between transportation investment and land use. As one example, she has analyzed the influence of new rail lines on commercial and residential development in Los Angeles. From the mid-1990s until the mid-2000s, trains didn’t make much of an impact on land use, whereas a change in zoning spurred many developers to convert older buildings into condos and apartments in downtown Los Angeles.

“In general, there’s not enough ridership on the system to really have significant effects,” she said.

Most recently, Giuliano has been researching freight activities in L.A., New York, Paris and Seoul. She’s observed how population and employment density drive up land prices, crowding out most freight activities. Giuliano has also made related policy recommendations, which have informed the Sustainable Freight Action Plan for the State of California.