• Professor, Sociology Department

Research Statement

1. Globalization and the world system of cities. Network analysis of political, social, cultural relations among the world's large cities, identifying relaitons of dominance and subordination in the world-system, including outcomes for people in terms of social stratification, socioeconomic "development," and transnational and intra-national socio-political relations. 2. Poverty policy and economic development policy in underdeveloped rural regions of the United State, particularly in the Mississippi Delta.

Research Keywords

  • world cities
  • urbanization
  • Rural Studies
  • Community Development or Revitalization
  • Chinese urbanization


  • "The Racialized Underdevelopment of an 'Internal Periphery': Persistent Polarization in the Mississippi Delta." 4th Annual Conference of the Sociology of Development Section, Brown University, March 13-15. This paper reports on observational research conducted in two Delta counties sporadically over the past 25 years. Our purpose is partly descriptive, partly to give voice to some of the people who live in the Delta, and partly explanatory. We describe conditions today, comparing them with those 25 years ago in terms of how the study participants, including local “elites,” describe and understand social conditions in their communities and their own personal situations. We compare what they say to objective indicators of the socioeconomic conditions today and changes over the past couple of decades. Our research is framed by questions about how this region is situated in a global political economy, by issues of persistent racialized inequality that is deeply embedded in local political and social institutions that bear on “development”, and by the interplay between these apparent global and local dynamics. We describe some of the many ways in which Delta communities have long been tightly integrated into a global economy, and we note that their involvement is structured in a way that ensures the persistence of widespread poverty, an absence of middle class opportunities, and continued polarization in terms of race, wealth, and gender. While there have been periodic bubbles of economic growth (e.g., centered on the gaming industry and heritage tourism), many problems of underdevelopment persist. The paper concludes by pointing to specific areas that future development policy must address if communities such as these are to provide opportunities for middle class life styles for a significant number of its currently poor, African American families, many of which consist of women and children. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 03/04/2015.
  • M. Timberlake and D. Smith, "Global City Formation with Chinese Characteristics." Paper presented at the roundtables of the Section on Sociology of Development for the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. Denver, Colorado. Conference Paper, Presented, 08/20/2012.
  • M. Timberlake and M. Sanderson, "Bringing Migration Back In." Paper presented at the roundtables of the Political Economy of the World System Section in the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. Denver, Colorado. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 08/20/2012.
  • Yehua Dennis Wei and Michael Timberlake, "The Making of Global Cities in China: the state, Global Capital, and Urban Transformation." Session Honoring James O. Wheeler, Seesion III: Urban Geography. Annual Meeting of the American Geography Association, New York City. Conference Paper, Refereed, Accepted, 02/26/2012.
  • "Global Cities with Chinese Characteristics." The International conference on Regional and Urban Development in the 21st Century and the Lingnan Forum. Sun Yat-sen University. Guangzhou, China. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 12/17/2011.
  • Global city Theory and Research in Relaiton to China. School of Public Policy, Sun Yat-sen University. Guangzhou, China. 2011. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 12/15/2011.
  • Michael Timberlake and Matthew Sanderson, "Testing the Global City Hypothesis: An Empirical Assessment among U.S. Cities, 1990-2000. Roudtable session for Political Economy of the World-System Section, Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. Presentation, Presented, 08/22/2011.
  • "Rising Global Cities: Opportunities and Dangers." Department of Social and Cultural Studies, Chinese Academcy of Governance, Beijing. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 06/30/2011.
  • "China's Rising Global Cities: Research and Policy challenges." School of Public Administratioin, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. Panel, Presented, 06/14/2011.
  • "Global Cities: Conceptual and Empirical Challenges." Department of Geography, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China. Panel, Presented, 06/09/2011.
  • "Global Cities and the Global City Network." Department of Urban Planning, China Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing. Invited Talk/Keynote, Submitted, 06/02/2011.
  • "Economic Globalization and the Structure of the World City System." School of Cultural Studies, China Normal University, Beijing. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 06/01/2011.
  • Michael Timberlake 2010 “The Kaleidoscoping World City Networks.” XVII World Congress of Sociology, International Sociological Association. Gothenburg, Sweden. July 11-17. Conference Paper, Refereed, Other, 07/15/2010.
  • Michael Timberlake and Ben Derudder 2009 “A World City Hypothesis: Globalization and Social Polarization in U.S. Cities,” Cities Futures ’09, An International Conference on Globalism and Urban Change, sponsored by the European Urban Research Association and the Urban Affairs Association. Madrid, June 4-6. Conference Paper, Other, 2009.

Research Groups

  • Jianmei Hao, Graduate Student. Sociology. 10/2010 - present.
  • Joergen Bro, Graduate Student. Sociology. 08/2008 - present.
  • Jonathon Westover, Graduate Student. Sociology. 08/2007 - 07/2010.
  • Xiulian Ma, Graduate Student. Sociology. 08/2002 - 07/2009. Awards/Scholarships/Stipends: National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant.

Grants, Contracts & Research Gifts

  • Collaborative Proposal: Processes and Mechanisms of Global City Formation in China. PI: M. Timberlake. Co-PI(s): Y.D. Wei. National Science Foundation, 07/01/2011 - present. Total project budget to date: $0.00
  • “Korean cities in the global economy: Asian city system perspective” . PI: Kyung-Ho Shin. Co-PI(s): M. Timberlake. Academy of Korean Studies, 07/01/2009 - present. Total project budget to date: $2,400.00
  • City and State Relations under Globalizaton. PI: M. Timberlake. Co-PI(s): X. Ma. National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant, 07/01/2008 - present. Total project budget to date: $7,500.00
  • Modeling Targeted Control of Geographic Spread of H5N1 Avian Influenza by Linking Bird Migration, Poultry Distribution Network with Human Settlements. PI: Bing Xu. Co-PI(s): M. Samore, M. Timberlake, W. Xu. University of Utah, 07/01/2007 - present. Total project budget to date: $88,000.00
  • Changing Opportunities for the Poor in theRural Mississippi Delta. PI: M. Timberlake. University of Utah, 07/01/2007 - 07/01/2008. Total project budget to date: $5,500.00
  • Collaborative Research: Globalization and the Network of World Cities: A Pilot Study. PI: M. Timberlake. Co-PI(s): D. Smith, J. Kentor. National Science Foundation, 07/01/2004 - 07/01/2005. Total project budget to date: $50,000.00

Research/Scholarship Projects

  • Migration, Global Cities, and Polarization. PI: Michael Timberlake. Co-PI(s): Matthew Sanderson, Ben Derudder. 04/01/2011 - present.
  • Dependent Development in the Mississippi Delta. PI: Michael Timberlake. Co-PI(s): Bruce Williams, Judy Maynard. 08/08/2008 - present.

Geographical Regions of Interest

  • China
  • Eastern Asia
  • United States of America
    Mississippi Delta region.


  • "Are World Cities also World Immigrant Cities? An International, Cross-City Analysis of Global Centrality and Immigration." International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 2015, Vol. 56(3-4): 173-197. Systematic research on world cities neglects immigration, despite its significance to world city formation. In this paper, we test a foundational, but untested, premise of world cities research: that global centrality in the world urban system is associated with larger, more diverse immigrant populations. Using an international sample of cities, we conduct multivariate regressions of Benton-Short et al.’s (2005) Urban Immigrant Index on the GaWC measure of advanced producer service firm centrality and two other measures of global urban centrality, controlling for competing explanations of international migration. Our findings reveal that cities that are more central to the network of advanced producer service firms have larger, more diverse immigrant populations than less-central cities. World cities are thus not only key sites for corporate control of the world economy; they are also central in international flows of immigrant labor, as Sassen hypothesized nearly 30 years ago. Accepted, 08/13/2015.
  • Hao, Jianmei, Ma, Xiulian, Timberlake, Michael & Wei, Yehua Dennis (2014). Global cities with Chinese characteristics. Elsevier BV. Published, 2014.
  • "Global Cities with Chinese Characteristics," Cities. Pp, 162-170, December, 2014. Published, 12/2014.
  • "Climatologoical and Geographical Impacts on Global Pandemic of Influenza A (H1N1) 2009," Chapter 12 in Qihao Weng, ed., Global Urban Monitoriing and Assessment through Earth Observation. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. Published, 05/2014.
  • Timberlake, M. & Ma, X. (2013). World City Typologies and National City System Deterritorialisation: USA, China and Japan. SAGE Publications. Vol. 50(2), 255-275. Published, 2013.
  • Ma, Xiulian and Michael Timberlake. "World City Typologies and National City System Deterritorializaiton: USA, China, and Japan." Urban Studies 50(2): 255-275. Published, 02/01/2013.
  • Witlox, Frank, Winitzky, Jessica, Ma, Xiulian, Derudder, Ben, Sanderson, Matthew R. & Timberlake, Michael (2012). Testing a Global City Hypothesis: An Assessment of Polarization across US Cities. Wiley-Blackwell. Vol. 11(1), 74-93. Published, 2012.
  • M. Timberlake and D. A. Smith "Global Cities and World City Networks." Chapter 7.3 in Salvatore Balbones and Chris Chase-Dunn, eds., Handbook of World-Systems Analysis. London and New York: Routledge. Pp. 247-255. Published, 06/01/2012.
  • M. Timberlake, M. Sanderson, B. Derudder, X. Ma, J. Winitsky, and F. Witlox, "Testing a Global City Hypothesis: An Assessment of Polarization across U.S. Cities." City and Community, 11:1 March 2012: 74-93. Published, 03/2012.
  • Y.D. Wei, M. Timberlake, "" Restructuring for Growth in Urban China: Local States, Land Use, and Spatial Transformation,”. In progress, 03/2011.
  • Kentor, J., A. Sobek, and M. Timberlake, 2011. “Interlocking Corporate Directorates and the Global City Hierarchy.” In special segment in Journal of World-System Research. Vol. XVII (2): 498-514. Published, 03/01/2011.
  • Review of Patriotic Professionalism in Urban China: Fostering Talent by Lisa M. Hoffman. (Temple University Press, 2010.) in Contemporary Sociology, vol. 40 (6): 722-3. Published, 01/11/2011.
  • Timberlake, M., Witlox, F. & Derudder, B. (2010). Introduction: Mapping Changes in Urban Systems. SAGE Publications. Vol. 47(9), 1835-1841. Published, 2010.
  • Xiulian Ma, Smith, D. A., Timberlake, M. & Mahutga, M. C. (2010). Economic Globalisation and the Structure of the World City System: The Case of Airline Passenger Data. SAGE Publications. Vol. 47(9), 1925-1947. Published, 2010.
  • B. Derudder, M. Timberlake, and F. Witlox 2010. “Introduction: Mapping Changes in Urban Systems.” Special Issue of Urban Studies, 47(9): 1835-1841. Published, 08/01/2010.
  • M. Mahutga, X. Ma, D. Smith and M. Timberlake 2010. "Economic Globalization and the Structure of the World-City System: The Case of Airline Passenger Data". Urban Studies, vol. 47(9): 1925-1947. Published, 08/01/2010.
  • B. Derudder, M. Timberlake, and F. Witlox, eds., 2010. The Changing Configuration of the World City Network. Special Issue of Urban Studies. Published, 08/01/2010.
  • M. Timberlake 2010 “Introduction: What are Cities?” Pp. xxxiii-xl.in What are Cities? Volume 1 of R. Paddison and M. Timberlake, eds., Urban Studies: Economy. London: Sage. Published, 01/09/2010.
  • R. Paddison & M. Timberlake, eds., 2010. What are Cities? Urban Studies: Economy, Volume 1 (of 4). London: Sage. Published, 01/09/2010.
  • Yehua Dennis Wei and Michael Timberlake 2010 “Making Shanghai a Global City.” Pp 14-19 in World Expo Commorative Publication: Shanghai, China, May-October, 2010. Medaurus Global LLC, Washington, D.C. Other, 2010.
  • Timberlake, Michael F. & Ma, Xiulian (2008). Identifying China’s leading world city: a network approach. Springer Science + Business Media. Vol. 71(1), 19-35. Published, 2008.
  • X. Ma and M. Timberlake 2008 "Identifying the Leading World City in China: A Network Approach." GeoJournal. Vol. 71, no. 1 (Jan.): 19-35. Published, 07/01/2008.
  • 2008. Review of Peter Hall and Kathy Pain, eds. and authors, The Polycentric Metropolis: Learning from Mega-City Regions in Europe. Journal of the American Planning Association. Volume 74, Issue 3 June : 384 - 385. Other, 06/15/2008.
  • Shin, K.-h. (2006). Korea's Global City: Structural and Political Implications of Seoul's Ascendance in the Global Urban Hierarchy. SAGE Publications. Vol. 47(2), 145-173. Published, 2006.