Shrinking cities  

Margaret Okole writes: “At the last meeting of the New Economics Forum, we talked about population movements. Some were of the view that megacities grow inexorably larger, but London seems to be proving otherwise. This article in the Guardian suggests that it is actually shrinking slightly”.

The article referred readers to Yorkshire Building Society research, which shows that with a continuing affordability crisis in London, popular destinations, such as Lewes and Exeter, have become increasingly affordable. The findings, based on official earnings figures and Land Registry data for house prices in 356 local authority areas, come as the number of people leaving London is at a five-year high, with net outward migration of 93,300 people in the year to June 2016, 80% higher than five years earlier.

She ends: “I think Government policy has a big influence on whether people move and there’s nothing inevitable about it. It would be interesting to compare population movements within different European countries and the reasons for them”. 

A New Delhi contact, Devinder Sharma, points to the influence of an international institution – the World Bank – referring to a ‘60s/’70s directive which has so far eluded online detection. He deplores the apparent desire of his government to see people in rural areas migrate to towns and cities. However he referred to Michael Lipton, professor of political science, who draws on WB publications in focussing on this theme Lipton M. ‘Why poor people stay poor: urban bias in world development.'(Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1977). Many neoliberal publications propose this migration to free land for ‘development’ or ranch style farming – food for export.

A search revealed frequent use of the term ‘shrinking cities’. A Financial Times columnist focusses on cities in the ‘rust-belt’to whom Donald Trump appealed in his election campaign.

“The most common reason is deindustrialisation. Shrinking cities in developed economies are concentrated in a handful of areas across the globe, such as the American rust belt and the German industrial heartland. These places were some of the first to industrialise in the world, but have struggled in the past few decades to work out what comes next after manufacturing and industrial jobs have moved elsewhere”.

But a research article by Manuel Wolff and Thorsten Wiechmann, Urban growth and decline: Europe’s shrinking cities in a comparative perspective 1990–2010 (March 2017) reveals that 20% of European cities experienced shrinkage between 1990 and 2010, whereas 883 cities have faced recent shrinkage.

Three causes of urban decline – economic, social and demographic change

At COST CIRES Conference (University of Amsterdam) Stephen Platt’s presentation: Causes of Urban Shrinkage: an overview of European cities, was based on his earlier 2004 paper. He highlighted three principal widespread structural causes of urban decline – economic, social and demographic change.

  • Demographic – fertility rate, population aging, decreasing size of households
  • Economic – different cycles, de-industrialisation, globalisation, dispersion of commercial activities, macro-economic trends, industry/agricultural decline, energy prices and development of wages
  • Social/Cultural – Status, lifestyle, skills, education, employment, standards of living, migration, households, housing prices, public welfare, quality of life, and social changes
  • Environmental – Climate change, rural environment, landscape aesthetics / degradation • Policy/Politics – taxes, regulations and planning.
  • Suburbanisation, re-urbanisation, sprawl, counter-urbanisation – however these may not be actually causes of shrinkage but resulting from spatial processes of many of the causes listed above.

Secondary outcomes, for example the migration of young or highly skilled individuals, poorer service provision, regional specialisation or house price differentials, may exacerbate or contribute to further shrinkage.

WMNEG’s Andrew Lydon has frequently pointed out how many prosperous and heavily populated cities are on the coast and Platt adds that climate change may also come to play an increasingly role in migration, but that to date environmental factors are not a significant cause of shrinkage.

 

 

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Posted on September 18, 2017, in Housing, Margaret Okole and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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