Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, May 1, 2014

Alum wins award for dissertation research

man holding plaque

1997 alum Matthew Weber won the 2014 Alma H. Young Emerging Scholar Award from the Urban Affairs Association.

1997 alum Matthew Weber has won the 2014 Alma H. Young Emerging Scholar Award from the Urban Affairs Association.

Weber is a doctoral candidate in the Ph.D. program in the University of Michigan's urban and regional planning, and he is completing a dissertation entitled "Informal Property Ownership and Shrinking Cities: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Options."

Members of the award committee note that Weber's dissertation prospectus is "sound, outstanding and quite innovative" and that his work indicates a future major contribution to scholarship.
Weber is studying "legacy cities," those cities that came of age amidst the Henry Ford's mode of mass production and that now struggle with a diminished tax base, population loss, vacant and abandoned properties, crime, poverty, and low educational attainment.

"My dissertation makes use of the unique research opportunities legacy cities afford: how their scope and scale of decline brings to light phenomena that may be more difficult to observe in growing cities, in turn building a deeper understanding of urban processes and exposing gaps in urban theory and mismatches between policies presuming growth and places dominated by population loss and weak real estate markets," Weber says.

Weber argues that the emptied out neighborhoods, concentrated poverty and diminished property values in legacy cities work to break down the legal, economic, social and spatial mechanisms that ordinarily reproduce formal property ownership. "The result, absent the right policy responses, is widespread informal ownership," he says. "My dissertation is integrating literature on informal settlements in the global South with the literature on shrinking cities to draw parallels between similar processes unfolding in very different contexts."

At the University of Michigan, Weber has been co-instructor of the Integrative Field Experience class and the primary instructor of the Neighborhood Planning class. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1997 with degrees in law, and public affairs and policy analysis.

Award announcement