Urban occupational structures as information networks: The effect on network density of increasing number of occupations

S.T. Shutters*, J. Lobo, R. Muneepeerakul, D. Strumsky, C. Mellander, M. Brachert, T. Farinha, L.M.A. Bettencourt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Urban economies are composed of diverse activities, embodied in labor occupations, which depend on one another to produce goods and services. Yet little is known about how the nature and intensity of these interdependences change as cities increase in population size and economic complexity. Understanding the relationship between occupational interdependencies and the number of occupations defining an urban economy is relevant because interdependence within a networked system has implications for system resilience and for how easily can the structure of the network be modified. Here, we represent the interdependencies among occupations in a city as a non-spatial information network, where the strengths of interdependence between pairs of occupations determine the strengths of the links in the network. Using those quantified link strengths we calculate a single metric of interdependence–or connectedness–which is equivalent to the density of a city’s weighted occupational network. We then examine urban systems in six industrialized countries, analyzing how the density of urban occupational networks changes with network size, measured as the number of unique occupations present in an urban workforce. We find that in all six countries, density, or economic interdependence, increases superlinearly with the number of distinct occupations. Because connections among occupations represent flows of information, we provide evidence that connectivity scales superlinearly with network size in information networks. © 2018 Shutters et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018

JEL classifications

  • o15 - "Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration"
  • d83 - "Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief"
  • d85 - Network Formation and Analysis: Theory


  • article
  • developed country
  • human
  • occupation
  • city
  • economics
  • geography
  • Germany
  • information service
  • migration
  • population dynamics
  • socioeconomics
  • Sweden
  • urban population
  • urbanization
  • Cities
  • Economics
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Information Services
  • Occupations
  • Population Dynamics
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Urban Population
  • Urbanization

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