Defining and Measuring Economic Development: A Literature Review and Outlook


  • Eli J. Levine Penn State Harrisburg
  • Michele Tantardini Penn State Harrisburg



Economic Development, Literature Review, Outlook, Definition, Measurement


Economic development is an increasingly popular topic in different research areas. However, there is not a definite, categorical, and settled definition for economic development, nor a comprehensive measure that is agreed upon. This study aims to fill this gap through a literature review of the scholarly publications 1950–2020 in all the English-language peer-reviewed journals in the subject areas of public administration and development. On this basis, the article identifies 19 themes as well as 14 types of improvements around which it is possible to group this multi-faceted topic. Specifically, the article highlights for each of the identified themes and types of improvements how economic development is defined and measured. In addition to that, our review reveals issues and research questions that go unaddressed. We conclude the article by providing our recommendations in this regard.

Author Biographies

  • Eli J. Levine, Penn State Harrisburg

    Eli J. Levine is currently a PhD Candidate at the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg. He holds a Master’s degree in urban planning from the School of Architecture and Planning at State University of New York at Buffalo and a Master’s degree in public administration from the Martin School at the University of Kentucky. His research focuses on workforce development system policy and the intersection of community and economic development.

  • Michele Tantardini, Penn State Harrisburg

    Michele Tantardini is an Assistant Professor of Public Administration in the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg. He holds a PhD in public affairs from the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs at Florida International University. His research focuses on performance management, social capital, and on the manifold relations between religion and public administration.






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