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Frank Swiaczny, Philip Graze and Claus Schlömer (2008)

Spatial Impacts of Demographic Change in Germany Urban Population Processes Reconsidered*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 33, 2/2008, p. 181-206, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, ISSN: 0340-2398, DOI: 10.1007/s12523-009-0010-9

Abstract: Germany is currently on the way to becoming a society with an ageing and declining population. This is due to the fact that the country has had extremely low fertility for more than 30 years. With an ageing population, and their preference for ageing in place, the strong impact of internal migration on the spatial differentiation of population structures is declining, and international migration gains in the urban cores will become more influential in the future. Thus, city core regions may gain in demographic terms from young migrants, while suburban areas may no longer be able to compensate for their rapid ageing by a continuous stream of resettling families, and rural areas may face increasing migration losses besides their rapid ageing. The article provides an update on the current demographic change in Germany and the resulting increase in spatial disparities of population structures based on the latest spatial forecast of the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development. The introduction includes extended coverage of recent German research literature on the topic. The main section describes the spatial ageing patterns and analyses the presented reversal in the aging process of urban cores, suburban and rural counties as a result of ageing. The population dynamics of two regions are investigated in greater detail as an example of the regions which are most prone to the effects of ageing in place: suburban counties in the West and rural counties in the East of the country. Finally, the findings are placed into the context of the recent discussion on the question of whether Germany is on the brink of a revival of the city or a reurbanisation process. The common understanding that urban cores are demographically older than their surrounding regions has to be reconsidered in the light of the insight on ageing-in-place effects of ageing populations and of the reversal of ageing patterns which are shown in this paper. Statistical proof of a new steady trend of reurbanisation measured in terms of population growth by migration gains is not (yet) possible. Even if populations in city cores have grown slightly in recent years as a result of migration, suburbanisation is still the dominant trend. However, if positive internal migration balances of city cores and reduced suburbanisation prevail, the reversal process of ageing will gain additional momentum.

* peer-reviewed article

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