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Andrea Dittrich-Wesbuer, Stefanie Föbker and Frank Osterhage (2008)

Demographic Change and Migration in City Regions: Results from Two German Case Studies*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 33, 3-4/2008, p. 315-350, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, ISSN: 0340-2398, DOI: 10.1007/s12523-009-0019-0

Abstract: Against the backdrop of demographic change, more and more attention is being paid to the decisions taken both by the elderly and by families with children when they choose to relocate elsewhere. Well-serviced, higher-density residential areas offer various advantages for the elderly; families with children, on the other hand, are generally seen as the classic agents of suburbanisation. However, even for this group there are certainly also arguments in favour of central residential locations. This article investigates the relocation activities of both groups, in particular in terms of a potential trend in the direction of re-urbanisation. To this end, the authors consider patterns of migration within city regions on the part of both the elderly and families with children; they examine the criteria which they apply in deciding where to live, and the types of residential areas they select. The research questions are investigated in a comparative approach, focusing on two differently structured urban regions. The Bergisches Land is an example of a “shrinking” urban region; the Bonn region, by contrast, is flourishing. The study is based on four modules: a migration-flow analysis, which draws on official statistics; a standardised questionnaire sent out by post; guided interviews with respondents who have completed relocation; and a highly localised classification of spatial types. Analysis shows that the elderly account for only a small share of migration activity within city regions. They have ties of many kinds which stand in the way of relocation. Elderly people also have high and quite complex demands with regard to their future address. Although some of these demands may be met particularly by higher-density locations, it is not possible to detect any marked tendency in favour of urban neighbourhoods. However, the low migration rates which are found in this demographic group represent potential for the future which could well be mobilised if the right kind of accommodation were to be made available. Families with children account for a much more sizeable slice of migration activity within city regions. In respect of the criteria affecting the choice of location, this group is more heterogeneous. In the case of families with children of preschool or primary-school age, the prime focus can be seen to be on the needs of the children. As might be expected, there is no discernible preference for urban locations. In the Bergisches Land region, there is however an unmistakable correlation between income and place of residence: low-income families are significantly more likely to relocate to urban neighbourhoods than families with higher incomes. Beyond such regionally specific differences, the comparison of these two regions reveals that migration activity follows similar basic patterns.

* peer-reviewed article

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