New data and an analysis of regions across the U.S. offer insight into how regional economic change and a region’s reliance on anchor institutions intersect. Using data from the Anchor Economy Dashboard — which now includes economic impacts and reliance indexes for the years 2004 and 2019 — researchers examined how anchor reliance across the nation has changed, with a focus on regions that have experienced significant increases or decreases in anchor reliance during this 15-year period.

Researchers offer three key takeaways:

  • There is a large heterogeneity across regions between change in reliance and the measures of economic growth that we have selected.
  • At the national level, researchers found that change in anchor institution reliance is uncorrelated with the measures of economic growth examined. This finding reinforces that the reliance index is not a normative scale that indicates strong or weak economies. Rather, reliance is descriptive of regional economies in a way that can be an asset to regions when understood in the context of other economic conditions.
  • Although correlations between anchor reliance and economic growth measures do not appear at the national level, examining the 30 regions that have experienced the most reliance change between 2004 and 2019 reveals examples where some Rust Belt cities display growing reliance and declining economic measures, while some Sun Belt and West Coast cities display declining reliance and growing economic measures.

Researchers concluded that reliance on anchor institutions can be both a strength and a vulnerability. High reliance on anchor institutions can be a strength when anchors are strong, or a vulnerability if other job sectors have declined and a region is overly dependent on anchor institutions for jobs and economic activity. The reliance index is a tool that, when viewed in concert with other economic indicators, can help community planners and policymakers make informed decisions about the strength and sustainability of their anchor institutions, as well as their regional economies.

View the Full Report