Economic Geography Of Production

Economic geography is mainly (though not exclusively) concerned with the locational analysis of productive activities. Four major sets may be identified:

  1. Primary activity: the extractive sector of the economy in which workers and the environment come into direct contact, especially in mining and agriculture.
  2. Secondary activity: the manufacturing sector in which raw materials are transformed into finished industrial products.
  3. Tertiary activity: the services sector, including a wide range of activities from retailing to finance to education to routine office-based jobs.
  4. Quaternary activity: today’s dominant sector, involving the collection, processing, and manipulation of information; a subset, sometimes referred to as quinary activity, is the managerial activity associated with decision-making in large organizations.

Historically, each of these activities has successively dominated the American labor force for a time over the past 200 years, with the quaternary sector now dominant. Agriculture dominated until late in the nineteenth century, giving way to manufacturing by 1900. The steady growth of services after 1920 finally surpassed manufacturing in the 1950s but now shares a dwindling portion of the limelight with the still-rising quaternary sector. The approximate breakdown by major sector of employment in the U.S. labor force today is agriculture, 2 percent; manufacturing, 15 percent; services, 18 percent; and quaternary, 65 percent (with about 10 percent in the quinary sector).


Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts (10th edition), H. J. de Blij and Peter O. Muller

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