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02.1 Domestic migration in liquid modernity

Tuesday, June 27, 2023
13:45 - 15:15


Dr. Hans Andersen
Research Director
Aalborg University

Migration in times of re-urbanisation


Large cities in most of Western Europe have grown since the 1990s in contrast to many villages, small towns and rural districts that stagnate or loose population. Moreover, rural and small-town populations often have a large share of elderly people and few younger people. Consequently, it is often assumed that the future belongs to the big cities whereas rural areas and smaller towns are considered settlements of the past. However, the exchange of population between different types of localities; flows from larger cities and other urban settlements to smaller towns and rural districts, is generally neglected. The paper investigates dynamics of urban-rural migration; the numbers, ages, and socio-demographic composition of migrants along with their motivation for moving from urban to rural areas. The paper is based on a large survey among populations in Denmark studying settlement preferences and moving motives which are combined with register data. The paper thereby challenges understandings of migration as a one-directional flow of people from rural to urban settlements.
Dr. Rhys Dafydd Jones
Aberystwyth University

‘Affordification’: conceptualising in-migration and spatial inequalities beyond the gentrification debate


From boutiques and Airbnb to surging rents and local displacement, gentrification has come to negatively represent the classed effects of in-migration. As an explanatory concept, gentrification concerns the demographic and service transformation once a neighbourhood becomes aspirationally desirable. Meanwhile, current policy orthodoxies presume a steady population flow from outlying regions to urban employment centres. In either view, ‘successful’ places and spaces exert a prestigious pull. Yet internal migrants do not always seek to spatially upgrade: alternative migration flows exist which neither transform neighbourhoods nor follow income. In this paper, we offer a new concept to the in-migration lexicon: ‘affordification’. Focusing on the underexamined phenomena of middle-class migration to so-called ‘left behind’ regions, we argue that seeming socio-economic downgrades reveal how quality of life and spatial inequalities intersect. Drawing from a qualitative case study of the primarily rural and post-industrial West Wales and the Valleys, we demonstrate: how spatial inequalities can offer those in insecure class positions the ability to afford aspirational lifestyles; how career opportunities become traded for affordability; and, how a ‘middle-class gaze’ turns peripherality into cultural capital. Arguing that these empirical observations can be understood as affordification, we distinguish the concept from gentrification in five key ways: 1) scale; 2) transformations; 3) prestige; 4) co-existence with other forms of in-migration, especially welfare migration; and, 5) relationship to out-migration. By profiling affordification, we seek to move beyond limited understandings both of rural regions as caught between depopulation or gentrification, and ‘left behind’ places as primarily sites of working-class discontent.
Lianne Hans

Urban-rural migration on the Dutch housing market: is the popularity of the rural increasing among city-dwellers?


The number of people relocating from cities to the countryside has been steadily increasing in the Netherlands. Between 2018 and 2020, 11 percent of all city-dwellers bought a home in a rural region, compared to 8 percent between 2009 and 2011. In absolute numbers, this amounts to respectively 36.000 and 14.000 rural houses bought by city-dwellers. Since 2013, the urban inflow to rural municipalities surpasses the outflow. Despite this increase in urban-rural migration, we do not necessarily observe an outflow from the Randstad to the rural areas at the periphery of the country. Even though more households move to the countryside, and over longer distances, the increase of newcomers in rural municipalities is mainly caused by those coming from neighbouring, more urbanised municipalities. However, the share of owner-occupied houses is decreasing in the Randstad. This is likely caused by the general increase of housing prices, as well as the increase of buy-to-let in the Randstad, which forces households to consider moving to other areas. Based on unique data on housing transactions from the Kadaster, this paper discusses the migration of home-owners between urban and rural areas in the Netherlands between 2009-2022. Recent developments, as well as the characteristics of and various differences between newcomers and rural dwellers, and the influence of the Covid-19 pandemic, will be discussed.
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Dr. Jörn Harfst
Researcher, Dept. Of Geography
University of Graz

Domestic migration patterns within, from and to the periphery – An Austrian case study


One of the biggest development challenges in more peripheral and rural towns and regions is out-migration, especially of younger people. The migration decisions of this group are complex, often interlinked with the opportunities to study, work, and a better quality of life in urban centers. For the Austrian context this (out)migration is usually domestic. These processes impact negatively on the regional development of many of these places, affecting civil society, social life, and public infrastructures, bringing about social and economic deficits, as well as negative images.

In this context, this paper will unpack young people’s migration decisions along aspects of gender, skills, identities, and values for a specific Austrian case study region. It will also analyze who migrates to such regions and what kind of internal migration patterns are prevailing. The aim is to disentangle different migration patterns and their role for regional development in more peripheral places.

Fassmann, H. (2012): Konzepte der (geographischen) Migrations- und Integrationsforschung. H. Fassmann & J. Dahlvik (eds.) Migrations- und Integrationsforschung – Multidisziplinäre Perspektiven, 61-92, V&R unipress: Göttingen.

Harfst, J., Kozina, J. (eds.) (2022): Youth outmigration and Industrial Culture – Cross-border strategy. Založba ZRC: Ljubljana.

King, R., Skeldon, R. (2010): ‘Mind the Gap!’ Integrating Approaches to Internal and International Migration. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36:10: 1619-1646.

Robertson, M., Montuoro, P., Burston, M. (2018): Overcoming obstacles on the peri-urban fringe: young people making new geographies. Geographical Research, 57:2.

Session host

Thoroddur Bjarnason
Professor of Sociology
University of Iceland

Marco Eimermann
Umea University Sweden



Contact for questions about abstracts or registration: groningen@congressbydesign.com 

Contact for questions about the content of the programme: ruralgeo2023@rug.nl