The future sustainability of cities is contingent on economic resilience. Yet, urban resilience is still not well understood, as cities are frequently disrupted by shocks, such as natural disasters, economic recessions, or changes in government policies. These shocks can significantly alter a city’s economic structure. Yet the term economic structure is often used metaphorically and is often not understood sufficiently by those having to implement policies. Here, we operationalized the concept of economic structure as a weighted network of interdependent industry sectors. For 938 U.S. urban areas, we then quantified the magnitude of change in the areas’ economic structures over time, focusing on changes associated with the 2007–2009 global recession. The result is a novel method of analyzing urban change over time as well as a typology of U.S. urban systems based on how their economic structures responded to the recession. We further compared those urban types to changes in economic performance during the recession to explore each structural type’s adaptive capacity. Results suggest cities that undergo constant but measured change are better positioned to weather the impacts of economic shocks.
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