Hierarchical Regional Space (HRS) model
Skinner's Hierarchical Regional Space (HRS) model views agrarian societies as a nested hierarchy of local and regional systems, each centered on a city or town at a given level in an urban hierarchy. HRS draws upon and elaborates fundamental elements of modern geographical thought, including central place theory, regional systems theory, and spatial diffusion theory:
- For agrarian societies, Christaller's central place theory predicted the emergence of a hierarchy of settlements, with each level of the hierarchy providing distinctive services and attaining corresponding levels of development. Economic activities in this hierarchy develop hand in hand with a web of social networks.
- Anticipating regional systems theory, von Thünen described how zones of high- to low- value economic activity fill the regions around cities. Seen as core-periphery structures, these zones can be characterized in terms of agricultural intensity, transport efficiency, and other phenomena.
- Spatial diffusion theory, introduced by Hägerstrand, drew attention to the diffusion of innovations from cities: outward to their adjacent rural hinterlands, and simultaneously up and down the central place hierarchy. Successive waves of innovations diffusing along these paths tend to reinforce the urban hierarchy and regional core-periphery structures.
Even as agrarian societies industrialize, elements of these spatial structures may persist for generations. Within this framework, specific social and economic variables express their spatial pattern most strongly at certain spatial scales. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) facilitate modeling these structures at multiple scales, enabling social scientists to situate data from specific locations within these spatial contexts. As an alternative to the conventionally mapped hierarchies of political systems and administrative units, the HRS model provides a useful framework for explaining the spatial variation in many demographic and ecological phenomena.
Excerpted from "Conceptualizing HRS and Constructing Tabular and Spatial Datafiles" by Mark Henderson, G. William Skinner, and Lawrence W. Crissman. Paper prepared for the Geoinformatics '99 conference, China Data Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 20 June 1999. Archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20070206040542/http://www.umich.edu/~iinet/chinadata/geoim99/Proceedings/Henderson.pdf.