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Why the Garden Club Couldn't Save Youngstown: The Transformation of the Rust Belt Hardcover – March 2, 2009

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Why the Garden Club Couldn't Save Youngstown: The Transformation of the Rust Belt + Methods for Community Public Health Research: Integrated and Engaged Approaches + Everyday Politics: Reconnecting Citizens and Public Life
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (March 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674031768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674031760
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #639,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


An innovative work of scholarship, in method, phenomenon, and theory. (Gerald McDermott, University of Pennsylvania)

A fascinating study of the determinants of regional competitiveness in the U.S., Why the Garden Club Couldn't Save Youngstown has important lessons for scholars and policymakers interested in economic adaptation. (AnnaLee Saxenian, author of New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in the Global Economy)

Safford's work represents a clear advance in understanding the importance of networks for industrial and community development. He presents his case very effectively. (Keith Provan, University of Arizona)

Safford offers a compelling account of the very different paths taken by Allentown and Youngstown in response to the 'rust belt' crisis of the 1980s. More generally, he contributes to the emerging institutional perspective on strategic action. Situated at the intersection of social movement and organizational theory, this body of scholarship is emerging as an influential and fundamentally sociological challenge to rational choice and other theories of collective action. Safford advances this tradition even as he draws on its insights. (Doug McAdam, Stanford University)

This extraordinary look inside the fates of two down-and-out Rust Belt cities—how one came back from decline and the other went into a death spiral—has lessons for cities everywhere. It challenges the benefits of being a tight-knit community and shows, instead, that the people who bridge and connect among a city's networks prove most valuable. So who are your city's connectors? If you don't know, you'd better find out. (Carol Coletta, President and CEO, CEOs for Cities)

About the Author

Sean Safford is Visiting Professor of Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By T. P. Dolembo on October 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up as an afterthought, the title was intriguing. When I opened it and read Professor Safford's work, I was caught up in the subject. Today, rebuilding rust belt towns is relevant just about everywhere, and the book tells the story of two cities who tried their best to use their cultures to make new economic prosperity happen. Allentown succeeded but her sister city Youngstown failed. It is a very strong lesson in how community volunteer organizations, cultures and local histories figure in remaking economies. It would highly recommend this book to any person or group trying to recover in these times. I would also recommend this book to anyone about to spend vast dollars in economic development without checking on the local climate for cooperation and sharing. Though the data and methodology sections get a little dense, the text rides along and clearly explains what did and didn't work. As we all face local issues during the recovery, whenever it happens, we need sources of experienced locale's to guide us, and Professor Safford takes us there.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By OhioanInVA on June 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I grew up in a suburb of Youngstown, Ohio. My father, an accountant, was laid off from Youngstown Sheet & Tube. I was born in 1970, so I heard stories throughout my childhood of the glory days of Youngstown and various theories as to why the steel industry suffered as it did and why Youngstown could not recover. We compared ourselves more to Pittsburgh (it is closer geographically) than to Allentown, but I understand why Allentown was selected for this book. I have degrees in Mathematics and Economics, but I still found some of the analysis a bit hard to follow. At any rate, I finally have some answers as to why things have played out the way they have. I find it fascinating. I still visit Youngstown about four times a year. I had a great childhood, but it is sad to return to a place that is still struggling to recover from the 1970s and 1980s. I was intrigued by the title of the book, which becomes clear about mid-way through. For anyone from Youngstown or another rust-belt community, this book will enable you to think about how economic and civic structures may have played a role in your community and whether the community was able to respond to its rust-belt status. If you grew up in Youngstown, I encourage you to read this book for another perspective on the roles of prominent families you may have heard about. The book points out that while these families contributed great cultural institutions to the community, they did not create to an environment that enabled crossing socio-demographic boundaries when it was most critical. I see these families in a new (not as bright) light as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on September 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In the middle of the 20th century, Allentown, Pa.and Youngstown, Ohio looked pretty similar: two small, working-class industrial cities. But today, Allentown is richer, more populous, better educated and more entrepreneurial. When Allentown businesses grew, they grew in and around Allentown, while Youngstown's industry was leaving the region. What went wrong in Youngstown?

Safford focuses on the power of networks: interlocking groups of people who sit on the same boards and dominate a city's civic life. He creates a measurement of prominence, "eigenvector centrality", that I don't quite understand. But his conclusion is a bit clearer: in Youngstown, the most prominent organizations are cultural and civic, while in Allentown, businesses play a greater role in civic life. Stafford suggest that Allentown's networks make it easier for entrepreneurs to interact with each other and with other important civic organizations such as universities, which in turn somehow spurs wealth creation.

But I'm not sure Stafford's data supports his conclusions. In his list of the most prominent organizations in Allentown, I see only one manufacturer and no other businesses among the ten most prominent organizations (though three of the other nine are business-related civic groups like chambers of commerce). Similarly, in Youngstown only two of the top ten are businesses (both banks). This does not seem like a huge difference to me.

Moreover, I'm not sure which way the causal chain runs. Did the civic isolation of Youngstown's business community cause its decline, or did Youngstown's decline cause that city to have a weaker business community (thus causing that community to be more civically isolated)?

Finally, I wonder if Stafford has overlooked other causes.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JEC on August 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The comparisons the author drew between Youngstown and another similar city were interesting. Historically, he got Youngstown right, don't know about the other city. This is not an easy read. He jumps around a lot, making his argument hard to follow. Some conclusions seem a bit of a reach, though not necessarily wrong. On the whole, he makes a decent argument for why Youngstown's business leaders could not, or would not, "save Youngstown". The contrast with another similar city, where the business leaders did save their city is striking. How similar the two cities actually were at the time is arguable, especially since one is in the midwest and the other in the east. The book is the basis for an argument; the reader will have to decide whether the connections he makes are valid, and the conclusions about who was responsible are accurate.
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