A Study of Growth and Decline. Urban Europe

Population decline
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He was also very cautious about identifying the broad direction of change and the balance between concentration and deconcentration tendencies. The principal conclusion was that contemporary population trends are extremely diverse, covering the full spectrum between rapid growth and steep decline. There was no attempt to categorise cities according to their different trajectories or to examine the factors lying behind their differences.

Urban world: Meeting the demographic challenge in cities

There was also no assessment of whether the position of cities was improving or deteriorating, either individually or as a whole. The analysis in the remainder of the paper seeks to go beyond this and to extend the more systematic research of the s into the s and early s. Population is used here as the main indicator of city trajectories partly for practical reasons of data availability and for consistency with previous research.

Basic demographic data is the least problematic of all measures, although it is still not trouble-free because city boundaries are not defined consistently. Appendix A describes the detailed procedures followed. Population can also be justified as an indicator of city trends for more principled reasons, although no claims are made about it being the full explanation for urban growth or decline. This section indicates why population can provide clues to what is happening more generally to cities.

First, population change has always been an important consequence of urban economic conditions, especially the availability of jobs Salt and Clout, ; Green and Owen, ; Champion and Fisher, ; Storper and Manville, These include physical and cultural distance, financial and social costs, available information, legal restrictions on international migration and limitations on the availability of housing. The propensity of people to move is affected by their age, qualifications, employability and financial resources. Cultural factors also appear to be involved, since the level of inter-regional migration is generally higher in some countries such as the US than in others such as the UK.

Second, population change is also an important influence on urban economic conditions Glaeser, , ; Florida, ; Krugman, There is evidence, for instance, that sheer population size and dense local labour markets increase agglomeration economies and productivity Rice et al, ; Scott and Storper, Loss of population has certainly contributed to a host of wider economic, social and environmental problems for cities Cheshire and Hay, ; Begg et al, Shifts in the level and composition of the population can affect local employment through demand for goods and services.

A growing population tends to consume more food and drink, leisure and entertainment, and require more housing, schools, health centres and social services. Changes in the working age population also affect labour availability, and migration may help to offset shortages resulting from an ageing population.

The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies - Lessons from San Francisco and Los Angeles

A continuously refreshed supply of skilled labour can offer cities a comparative advantage and help attract mobile investment Gordon and Turok, ; Shapiro, Unskilled migrants can also ensure that basic services are delivered in sectors where wage rates are unattractive to the indigenous population. Migrants may also have a greater propensity to start their own businesses, either because of their own aptitudes or discrimination in seeking jobs. These influences may be becoming more important with rising personal mobility as a result of higher incomes and falling transport costs Glaeser, , Falling household sizes may also enable higher mobility because people have fewer dependents.

Higher mobility may mean that quality of life considerations such as amenities and climate feature more strongly in demographic changes. The pressures to migrate from some regions are also increasing because of the collapse of jobs in agriculture and manufacturing industries as a result of rising productivity and intensified international competition.

Falling barriers to international migration within the enlarged European Union are making it easier for people to move between selected parts of Eastern and Western Europe. What has the recent trajectory of European cities actually been? Our analysis takes a longer-term perspective than previous studies and is based on data between and the most recent available information, usually It is also more comprehensive in covering all cities in 36 countries with a population of over , see Figure 1.

Urban Shrinkage Is Not Just a Phase… And That’s OK | Resources Library | Urban Studies

These cities account for The cities in the West account for The starting point is whether European cities are growing or declining in absolute terms, and whether the balance between growth and decline has changed in recent years. Figure 2 shows the number of growing cities has in fact been falling steadily since the s.

Nearly three times as many cities were growing in the lates compared with the lates. There were more declining cities in Europe in the lates than growing cities, perhaps for the first time in several centuries! This consistent negative trend belies any suggestion of a general turnaround in the performance of European cities dating back to the s or s. The only positive sign is the evidence of a slight recovery within the last five years in the number of growing cities. It is certainly too soon to suggest that this is a significant or sustained turnaround.

There is a long way to go before the number of growing cities is back even to the level of the s. Figure 2 : The number of growing, declining and stable cities, Absolute population change is a demanding test of urban performance since it partly reflects national demographic trends, and it is widely known that the natural rate of demographic change that is, the number of births in relation to deaths in most European countries has slowed considerably since the s.

A measure of population change in cities relative to national population change is therefore an important supplementary indicator of their performance.

Associated Data

Relative growth or decline provides a simple indication of the scale of net migration flows between cities and other urban and rural areas, in other words whether people are generally moving to or away from cities. Table 1 shows that there were more than three times as many cities growing faster than their national average during the s compared with the number growing more slowly. It would have been accurate to describe most cities as engines of growth during this era since they were drawing resources to them and growing much more strongly than other settlements.

Their increase in population was not simply attributable to the general excess of births over deaths. There was considerable net rural-urban migration urbanisation in most countries during this period Salt and Clout, ; Begg et al, ; Fielding, Declining cities are those with a rate of population change below their national average i.

Table 1 also shows that the proportion of cities that were growing faster than their nations fell steadily during the following three decades until the late s, when for the first time there were more cities under-performing their national averages, that is lagging rather than leading national trends. This is consistent with the data in Figure 1.

Indeed the implication is slightly worse, with the number of declining cities slightly higher and the number of growing cities slightly lower. Both relative and absolute figures suggest that the late s were the worst period for European cities, when decline was most widespread. There was a slight improvement in the first few years of the new millennium, although the number of cities in relative decline still exceeded those that were growing.

Relative decline has therefore been a more common feature of city trends during the last decade than relative growth. The absolute rates of population growth for cities and their nations are also shown in Table 1. During the early s, cities were on average growing at nearly three times the rate of their national populations, indicating very strong urbanisation trends. The differential narrowed steadily until the lates, when cities fell below national trends and were actually declining on average.

There was a slight recovery between , but cities were still growing more slowly than their national populations. The relative performance of cities over time can also be simply illustrated by the share of the total population that lives there. The share then fell back to The chart also shows a big difference between the position of Western and Eastern Europe. It then stopped rising, partly because of the economic and political turmoil in the region at the time Treivish et al, ; Nefedova and Treivish, , and at a much lower level than in the West.

The overall message is that the decline in city growth rates since the s seems to be more a function of the diminishing attractiveness of cities to migrants and less the result of a slowdown in the birth rate. The dominant pattern for European cities appears to be long-term stagnation or slowdown rather than revitalisation.

The next step in the analysis is to move beyond average growth rates and to unpack the aggregate pattern of change by examining the different trajectories of individual cities. The underlying question posed is how many cities have experienced this kind of positive turnaround in recent years compared with the opposite of a downturn, or a period of continuous growth or decline.


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Figure 4 shows the nine most common trajectories in schematic form. The categories are mutually exclusive and the figure only shows the direction of change between different points in time, not the rate of change. The trajectories range from continuous decline over the last 45 years to continuous growth. The other categories represent shorter durations of decline or growth. There were no cities with stable population sustained over several decades.

There are three categories of resurgence:. The number that followed each trajectory is shown in the key to Figure 6 and the individual cities are listed by country in Appendix B. There were 20 French cities in this group, 11 from Spain and 10 from Germany. There were 28 Russian cities in this group, 17 from Ukraine and eight from Poland.

There were 18 Russian cities in this group, six from Ukraine and six from Poland.

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Taking the second and third groups together, there were cities that had experienced a clear downturn since This greatly outnumbers the 19 cities that experienced a positive turnaround since 12 were resurgent during the early s, and seven during the s. Another 23 cities turned around during the s.

Thirteen of these 42 resurgent cities were located in the UK, eight in Germany, five in Belgium and five in Italy. The discontinuous trajectory in the middle of Figure 6 covered 26 cities, mostly in Eastern Europe. They grew in the s, declined in the s, and then returned to growth in the early s. There are only 13 cities that have experienced continuous or long-term decline. Overall, the main message is that there is a large group of cities that have experienced long-term growth and a similarly large group that have experienced a recent downturn, but the number of resurgent cities is quite small.

Only one in seven cities has had a positive turnaround since and one in 16 since Another important finding is that national distinctions seem to matter. One of the reasons for the limited number of resurgent cities may be the high degree of momentum in city trajectories. One of the reasons for this momentum is the durability of the built environment and infrastructure, particularly the stock of housing and business property Storper and Manville, This conditions the locational choices available to people and firms and limits the extent to which city trajectories depart from their historical path.