BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Which U.S. metro region is most likely to come
out of the next recession, natural disaster or other regional
"shock" relatively unscathed? Rochester, Minn. A little more
battered might be College Station-Bryan, Texas.
These two regions are ranked first and last, respectively, by a
new online tool measuring more than 360 U.S. metros for their
"regional resilience," or capacity to weather acute and chronic
stresses ranging from gradual economic decline to rapid population
gains to earthquakes and floods.
The Resilience Capacity Index (RCI), developed by Kathryn A.
Foster, director of the Regional Institute, a research and public
policy center of the University at Buffalo, produces a single
statistic for each region based on its performance across 12
economic, socio-demographic and community connectivity indicators,
ranging from income equality and business environment to voter
participation and the population of health-insured.
As a gauge for how well a region is positioned to adapt to
stress, the index can help regional leaders identify strengths and
weaknesses and target related policy changes toward building their
"Conceiving of regions as capable of adapting and transforming
in response to challenges allows researchers and practitioners to
understand the conditions and interventions that may make one place
more or less resilient and why," said Foster, also a professor of
urban and regional planning with UB's School of Architecture and
Foster developed the index as part of Building Resilient
Regions, a national network of experts on metropolitan regions
funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and
administered by the University of California, Berkeley. Online at
index features maps revealing geographic patterns in resilience
capacity, detailed data profiles for each metro and a "compare
Overall, Northeastern and Midwestern regions tend to be more
resilient than those in the South or West, largely because these
regions earn high scores for affordability, the size of their
health-insured population, rates of homeownership and metropolitan
stability, as measured by recent population change.
For instance, the Buffalo Niagara metro region ranks among the
nation's top regions for its metropolitan stability and
health-insured population. However, lower rankings on indicators
such as income equality, business environment and population
without disabilities to some degree offset its assets. This gives
the Buffalo Niagara metro region an overall RCI rank of 86, still
categorized as high.
Across the three categories of regional capacity, the
top-scoring metros are geographically diverse. Raleigh, N.C., with
leading technology firms, medical centers and universities, heads
the economic category. Ames, Iowa, ranks first for
socio-demographic capacity due to its exceptionally high level of
educational attainment (Iowa State University is located there).
For community connectivity, Bismarck, N.D., scores highest given
its critical mass of civic institutions as the state capital.
Metropolitan areas with populations over 1 million vary widely
in their resilience capacity. The top-ranking large metropolitan
area, Minneapolis-St. Paul, achieves its status with very high
socio-demographic capacity and levels of community connection, the
latter reflecting the region's No. 1 rank for voter participation.
The lowest-ranking large metropolitan area is Miami, Fla., a region
with very low regional affordability and income equality.
Foster points out that a region's RCI score is not necessarily a
sentence for success or failure in the face of the next population
boom, economic recession or industry shutdown.
"What it does tell us is that some regions are structurally more
prepared than others, and thus have greater capacity to bounce back
in the wake of stress," she said. "Still, regions with a high
capacity for resilience can squander their strengths just as those
ranked low can rise to the occasion and perform above
Additional research efforts, a number of which are highlighted
on the Building Resilient Regions site, are under way to measure
how regions actually respond to stress. Future studies will explore
which resilience capacity measures matter most for different kinds
of stresses as well as the significance of key governance and
environmental factors not captured by the RCI.
A major research and public policy center of UB, the Regional
Institute plays a vital role in addressing key policy and
governance issues for regions, with focused analysis of the Buffalo
Niagara region. The institute leverages the resources of the
university and binational community to pursue a wide range of
scholarship, projects and initiatives that frame issues, inform
decisions and guide change.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a
member of the Association of American Universities.