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Lösch, August



German economist and pioneer of locational analysis, August Lösch grew up in Heidenheim, Württem-berg, Germany. He studied economics in Freiburg with Walter Eucken, and in Bonn, and later at Harvard, with Joseph Schumpeter. From 1940 to 1945 he served as a research director at the Kiel Institute for Global Economics. Some of Lösch's early re-search was concerned with the interaction of demo-graphic and economic change, in particular, the effect of population on the business cycle. The work for which he is best known, however, is The Economics of Location (1940, American edition 1954), which applies general equilibrium theory to a spatially distributed economy.

Lösch used modern theoretical and statistical approaches to explore the impact of population change on economic cycles. Initially he believed that falling birth rates were disadvantageous to economic growth, as did most of his contemporaries. But his empirical investigations seemed to prove the contrary: population growth resulted in high costs to the national economy, while reduced population growth rates would potentially save capital for further investments. He buttressed his arguments by elaborate empirical investigations of demographic and economic growth in nineteenth-century Germany. One conclusion he reached, again contrary to general judgement, was that population change was more a cause than a consequence of business cycles. He propounded his findings in numerous articles, and in a 1936 lecture in Chicago, published the following year in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, where he also attacked the views of Raymond Pearl (1879–1940) and Corrado Gini (1884–1965) on population growth.

In his analyses Lösch started with as few assumptions as possible, establishing in theoretical terms in the manner of the classic pioneer of locational modelling, Johann Heinrich von Thünen (1783–1850), how characteristics of production and trade would give rise to spatial patterns of settlement. He concluded that this pattern must exhibit a hexagonal and hierarchical structure, which turned out to coincide with observed patterns. The study became one of the starting points of the field of Regional Science in the 1960s. Lösch's work on locational systems can be seen as a formal counterpart to that of the geographer Walter Christaller (1893–1969).

Historians have investigated how various aspects of Nazi policy were influenced by scientific knowledge, including findings from demography and economics. Lösch's work is sometimes mentioned in this context: his theoretical concepts were used in planning the intended settlement structure in Eastern Europe. But Lösch himself was strongly opposed to Nazi policies, even refusing to embark on a university career because he believed German universities had been corrupted by the regime. Unfortunately he did not live to participate in their restoration.

See also: Central Place Theory.


selected works by august lÖsch.

Lösch, August. 1932. Was ist vom Geburtenrückgang zu halten? Dissertation, Bonn University.

——. 1937. "Population Cycles as a Cause of Business Cycles." Quarterly Journal of Economics 51: 649–662.

——. 1940. Die räumliche Ordnung der Wirtschaft. Jena: G. Fischer. English translation (of the 2nd rev. ed.): The Economics of Location. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954.

selected works about august lÖsch.

Christaller, Walter. 1933. Die zentralen Orte in Süddeutschland. Jena: Gustav Fischer. (Partial English translation: 1966. Central Places in Southern Germany. Prentice Hall).

——. 1941. "Raumtheorie und Raumordnung." Archiv für Wirtschaftsplanung. Vol. I. 116–3.

Felderer, Bernhard. 1990. "A Theory Explaining Lösch-Cycles," In Infrastructure and the Space-Economy–in Honour of Rolf Funck, ed. Karin Peschel. Berlin: Springer.

Funck, Rolf, and J. B. Parr, eds. 1978. The Analysis of Regional Structure: Essays in Honour of August Lösch. London: Pion. (Karlsruhe Papers in Regional Science, Vol. 2.)

Funck, Rolf H., and Antoni Kuklinski, eds. 1986. Space-Structure-Economy: A Tribute to August Lösch. Karlsruhe: von Loeper. (Karlsruhe Papers in Economic Policy Research, Vol. 3.)

Mackensen, Rainer. 1990."August Lösch as a Population Analyst," In Infrastructure and the Space-Economy–in Honour of Rolf Funck, ed. Karin Peschel. Berlin: Springer.

Preston, R. E. 1985. "Christaller's Neglected Contribution to the Study of the Evolution of Central Places," Progress in Human Geography 9: 177–193.

Stolper, Wolfgang F. 1954. "August Lösch in memoriam," Preface to the American edition of The Economics of Location. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Valavanis, Stefan. 1955. "Lösch on Location." American Economic Review 45: 637–644.

Rainer Mackensen

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