Boudeville Growth Pole Theory

Boudeville growth pole theory provides geographic sense to growth pole. Boudeville gave specific geographic and regional character to the growth pole. Perroux’s ideas in Perroux’s Growth Pole Theory does not specify the geographic extent of the growth pole. Boudeville tried to supplement Perroux’s idea by providing geographic dimension. He wrote his ideas in his book titled The Contemporary Economy, The Regional Economy etc. published in late 1950s.

Concept of Growth Pole by Boudeville

  • He defined growth pole as a set of expanding industries located in urban area which induce further development of economic activity throughout its zone of influence.
  • It is Boudeville who made the real linkage between the conditions for existence of growth pole in the abstract space and condition for its existence in real geographic space.
  • He defined three types of externalities in urban agglomeration.
    • Internal to the firm: Those externalities which only benefit the concerned firm.
    • External to the firm: Those externalities which benefit all the firms linked to the major firm.
    • Internal to urban area: Those benefits which accrue to all the firms located in the urban agglomeration e.g. skilled labor, infrastructure, energy, institutions, research & development etc.

Boudeville’s Empirical Analysis of Growth Pole

Boudeville attempted to draw the geographic portrait of a growth pole through empirical analysis. For instance, he correlated the increase in steel smelting output to 1% increase in steel fabrication output in Minas Gerais (Brazil) through time. He also correlated the relationship between steel smelting and steel fabrication output at one point of time for all the states of Brazil.

  • The first correlation was aimed to study the polarization effect of a large industry on the economy of Minas Gerais province. The second correlation was aimed to study the agglomeration effect.
  • He found that the first correlation is strong and one large industry leads to increase in the output of related industry through time which leads to polarization of steel smelting in Minas Gerais. But in this case, steel smelting and steel fabrication are not related spatially.
  • In second correlation, the relationship between steel smelting and steel fabrication was weak. Instead, the steel fabrication output was strongly linked to size of population of a city. It was found that steel fabrication output was high in cities of large population like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo. Hence, the consumption of steel is related to large agglomerations but not with the steel producing centers such as Minas Gerais.
  • Hence, his research implied that polarization effect and agglomeration effect are separate forces.
  • Forward and Backward Linkages: In his theory, Boudeville is very inconclusive about the relationship of Steel Producing industry with the Steel Consuming industry. He doesn’t establish the relationship between steel smelting in Minas Gerais with Steel fabrication in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo. Therefore, the forward and backward linkages are uncertain.

Criticism of Growth Pole Theory

  1. No trickle down: The economists have observed that the income gap between large cities and smaller cities continue to grow due to cumulative causation.
  2. Urban Bias: The effect of urban growth on the periphery is very slow and insignificant because the policies have urban bias.
  3. Unfair Terms of Trade: The terms of trade are in favor of growth pole, therefore, the periphery region do not get same amount of advantage as the growth pole while trading goods and services. The large city or growth pole sources the raw material and labor at cheap price and sells the finished goods at higher price.
  4. Abstract space: This concept is very simplistic and the growth pole theory doesn’t explain the real process in spatial and temporal context.
  5. No threshold: This theory does not explain the spatial threshold up to which one can observe the effect of forward and backward linkages.
  6. R. P. Mishra in his Growth Foci Model argues that the growth does not take place instantly from large city to village level. Instead, it take place step by step through hierarchy of growth foci.


The proponents of growth pole theory do not offer clarity regarding the actual geographic manifestation of the growth pole. Hence, it remains just an abstract concept for understanding the relationship between a large city with its periphery. Other Theories of Regional Development by Gunnar Myrdal and Albert O. Hirschman also tried to explain the process of unbalanced growth like Perroux and Boudeville but could not remove the deficiency of Perroux’s Growth Pole Theory.