Special Issue "Urbanization and Demographic Change: A New Step Ahead in Understanding of World Regional Complexity"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Urban and Rural Development".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Luca Salvati
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA-SEL), Forestry and Wood, Via Santa Margherita 80, 52100 Arezzo AR, Italy
Interests: climate change; desertification; land-use; sustainable agriculture; urban sprawl; urban and rural geography
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

While urbanization has been closely associated to economic development and demographic change, heterogeneous patterns and processes of metropolitan growth and change reflect the uneven distribution of urbanization across the globe. Differences in patterns of urban growth and change across the globe—often masked by statistics indicating a net increase in urban population—reflect regional divides in socio-demographic, economic and environmental variables. To better understand the impacts of these regional differences, urban studies should better link demographic and economic patterns to global urbanization and regional/local processes of urban change. Going from global to local, multi-scale analysis of urban change gives more opportunities to ascertain the combined effect of increased birth rate and migration on urban growth, evidencing the role of social transformations that lead to a revitalization of central cities. Reconnecting impacts of regional-scale demographic change with local-scale population dynamics definitely contributes to an enriched knowledge of urban histories, outlining how an urban geography of differences is key to understand future demographic trends across the world. This Sustainability Special Issue, entitled "Urbanization and Demographic Change: A New Step Ahead in Understanding of World Regional Complexity" offers a multi-disciplinary arena to discuss on these deserving issues, stimulating literature reviews, position papers and commentaries, new theoretical frameworks and empirical approaches, comparative works and case studies.

Dr. Luca Salvati
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • population dynamics
  • migration
  • gentrification
  • indicators
  • urban economics
  • multi-scale policy analysis

Published Papers (16 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Trends and Characteristics of Inter-Provincial Migrants in Mainland China and Its Relation with Economic Factors: A Panel Data Analysis from 2011 to 2016
Sustainability 2020, 12(2), 610; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020610 - 14 Jan 2020
Abstract
For areas facing challenges associated with migration, information about the number of migrants and their demographic characteristics is needed to formulate regional development planning. This study analyzed the trends and characteristics of inter-provincial migrants in provinces in mainland China and related economic factors [...] Read more.
For areas facing challenges associated with migration, information about the number of migrants and their demographic characteristics is needed to formulate regional development planning. This study analyzed the trends and characteristics of inter-provincial migrants in provinces in mainland China and related economic factors using panel regression models. The results showed that the number of inter-provincial migrants had increased in provincial municipalities, as had the proportions of female and elderly migrants. A higher annual net migration rate was associated with slower growth rate of real gross domestic product (RGDP) per capita and faster growth rates of the tertiary and secondary industry GDPs. The higher proportion of female migrants was related to the faster growth rate of the tertiary industry GDP and the lower proportion of the secondary industry in GDP. The proportion of youth migrants was positively related to educational investment, while the proportion of elderly migrants was positively related to financial expenditure per capita on culture and recreation. These empirical results were robust across different estimation methods, except the result about the proportion of elderly migrants. These findings further reveal the association between inter-provincial migration and economy and provide policy reference for the management of migrants. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Urban Growth and Long-Term Transformations in Spanish Cities Since the Mid-Nineteenth Century: A Methodology to Determine Changes in Urban Density
Sustainability 2019, 11(24), 6948; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11246948 - 05 Dec 2019
Abstract
The current work models urban growth in the continuous built-up areas of 47 Spanish cities from the mid-nineteenth century through to the present day. We did this by compiling a comprehensive Geographic Information System (GIS) dataset, based on a series of historic maps [...] Read more.
The current work models urban growth in the continuous built-up areas of 47 Spanish cities from the mid-nineteenth century through to the present day. We did this by compiling a comprehensive Geographic Information System (GIS) dataset, based on a series of historic maps and aerial images, and then used this to study urban growth and to make spatial comparisons. Our chosen indicator of expansion: population density, was calculated by dividing the total population of each city (based on its municipal area) by its built-up area during each period. Our results revealed four different stages of growth, each of which was characterised by a certain political and economic reality. They showed the clogging up of the walled city, the shaping of the urban ensanches, the maturity of the compact city and the process of metropolisation. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Spatial Pattern of Urban Settlement in China from the 1980s to 2010
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6704; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236704 - 27 Nov 2019
Abstract
The dynamic urbanization process of China has stimulated a massive growth of urban settlements in the past few decades. With the development of remote sensing technology and the release of the long-time Landsat archive, spatial characteristics of urban settlement are gradually analyzed on [...] Read more.
The dynamic urbanization process of China has stimulated a massive growth of urban settlements in the past few decades. With the development of remote sensing technology and the release of the long-time Landsat archive, spatial characteristics of urban settlement are gradually analyzed on a large scale, and various patterns are developed for describing and analyzing it. However, the urban settlement patterns were mainly quantified by the landscape metrics in existing studies, the underlying features shaping urban settlement pattern were always neglected. In this study, we establish a systematic and comprehensive ‘urban development index system’ for describing China’s urban settlement pattern and its evolutions during the end of the 1980s through to 2010 by using a series of statistical methods. Results show that (1) urban settlement pattern in 2010 is quantified comparatively simpler and more completely than in the end of the 1980s; (2) urban settlements in western and eastern regions present integrated pattern and homogeneous attributes, while urban settlements in central and northeastern regions present relatively complex pattern and various attributes; (3) urban settlements with the most variable pattern are accompanied by the most dynamic population and economic capacity, followed by landscape dispersion. Topographic complexity of urban settlements generally remained unchanged or with slight fluctuations, therefore, it has limited influence on settlement pattern evolution. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Challenges of Regional Development in the Context of Population Ageing. Analysis Based on the Example of Opolskie Voivodeship
Sustainability 2019, 11(19), 5207; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11195207 - 23 Sep 2019
Abstract
Demographic changes, primarily the problem of progressive ageing, are one of the key challenges to development in Poland. The Opolskie voivodeship belongs to the regions characterised by extremely unfavourable demographic phenomena. This is because some population changes here have a broader dimension than [...] Read more.
Demographic changes, primarily the problem of progressive ageing, are one of the key challenges to development in Poland. The Opolskie voivodeship belongs to the regions characterised by extremely unfavourable demographic phenomena. This is because some population changes here have a broader dimension than on average in Poland and in the EU. Thereby, they have far-reaching as well as complex economic and social consequences in the region. Due to the fact that demographic processes are determined in the long term, and it is extremely difficult to influence them in the short term, the adaptation of social and economic spheres and, at the same time, the use of specific opportunities resulting from these changes, seems a useful strategy for regional development policy. Therefore, in the context of senioral policy, complex, coherent and diversified activities in the sphere of growth of professional activity of elderly people, support for life-long learning, improvement of seniors’ living conditions, including the development of health infrastructure, and seniors’ integration in society prove to be necessary. The multidimensional concept of the ‘silver economy’ creates specific opportunities for using the possibilities resulting from population ageing, and minimising the unfavourable consequences of this process, in the Opolskie voivodeship. However, the implementation of this concept demands the consideration of several determinants and barriers, that consequently affect its effective functioning. The direct objective of the paper is to present the current and projected demographic situation of Opolskie voivodeship, and on its basis, to determine the challenges resulting from the ageing of society for regional development. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Natural Geography and Patterns of Local Population Growth and Decline in Spain: 1960–2011
Sustainability 2019, 11(18), 4979; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11184979 - 12 Sep 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This paper analyzes the role of natural geography for explaining local population change patterns. Using spatially detailed data for Spain from 1960 to 2011, the estimation results indicated that natural geography variables relate to about half of the population growth variation of rural [...] Read more.
This paper analyzes the role of natural geography for explaining local population change patterns. Using spatially detailed data for Spain from 1960 to 2011, the estimation results indicated that natural geography variables relate to about half of the population growth variation of rural areas and more than a third of the population growth variation of urban areas during this period. Local differences in climate, topography, and soil and rock formation as well as distance to aquifers and the coast contribute to variations in local population growth patterns. Although, over time, local population change became less related to differences in natural geography, natural geography is still significantly related to nearly a third of the variation in local population change in rural areas and the contribution of temperature range and precipitation seasonality has even increased. For urban areas, weather continues to matter too, with growth being higher in warmer places. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Urban System in Serbia—The Factor in the Planning of Balanced Regional Development
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 4168; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154168 - 01 Aug 2019
Abstract
This paper analyzes the basic characteristics of Serbia’s urban system after World War II. The term urban system is largely determined by the use and functioning of the space in which it exists. We used the methods common in urban geography, notably the [...] Read more.
This paper analyzes the basic characteristics of Serbia’s urban system after World War II. The term urban system is largely determined by the use and functioning of the space in which it exists. We used the methods common in urban geography, notably the Rank-Size Rule and the Law of the Primate City with the aim of identifying the basic regularities, as the first step in an in-depth study of an under-researched topic. The research seeks to contribute to explaining the causes of the previous and current situation in the national settlement network, as a prerequisite for planning the future organization of the settlement network. Our study, conducted in Serbia, finds polarization apparent in the prominent domination of the capital city in terms of population, and this is a key feature of Serbia’s urban system. The current situation is the result of an intensive process of urbanization, but also of the establishment of new administrative boundaries after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. The study also seeks to suggest the most appropriate development model for Serbia’s urban system that could help overcome the extreme population concentration in Belgrade and create a basis for organizing an optimal system of centers. Keeping in mind that uneven regional development is determined by the features of the urban system, polycentric development is a common model for overcoming extreme polarization on a global level. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Selected Meso-Economic Consequences of the Changing Number of Students in Academic Towns and Cities (A Case Study of Poland)
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 1901; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11071901 - 29 Mar 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This article presents several selected economic consequences of the currently changing number of students in towns and cities in Poland, which has become an increasingly significant issue in view of the dramatic demographic transformations going on nowadays. The aim of the study is [...] Read more.
This article presents several selected economic consequences of the currently changing number of students in towns and cities in Poland, which has become an increasingly significant issue in view of the dramatic demographic transformations going on nowadays. The aim of the study is to analyze the impact of the changes on local enterprises operating in selected sectors of local economies of the academic towns and cities in the country. The results of the analysis confirm the assumption that selected academic towns can be affected not only by depopulation, but also by a decreasing number of students and—in consequence—a decreasing number of small trade and service enterprises. The authors conclude that co-incidence of these issues can pose a serious threat to local economies, especially where rapid negative economic and demographic changes have already been observed. The changes presented can be treated as the major threat to further sustainable development of Poland. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Features of Rural Labor Transfer and Cultural Differences: Evidence from China’s Southwest Mountainous Areas
Sustainability 2019, 11(6), 1522; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11061522 - 13 Mar 2019
Abstract
Large-scale rural labor transfer is considered an important means of promoting urbanization and poverty alleviation; however, it has been difficult to fully reveal the complexity of mountain labor transfer using traditional theory. In this study, macrostatistics and microsurvey data were employed to conduct [...] Read more.
Large-scale rural labor transfer is considered an important means of promoting urbanization and poverty alleviation; however, it has been difficult to fully reveal the complexity of mountain labor transfer using traditional theory. In this study, macrostatistics and microsurvey data were employed to conduct an empirical analysis of rural labor transfer in Xichang, highlighting the regional features of rural labor transfer in the southwest mountainous areas of China. The results show that the employment structure of rural labor is dominated by agriculture; however, its proportion is decreasing annually. The development of secondary and tertiary industries significantly contributes to the non-agricultural employment of rural laborers, who transfer mainly to the building, industry, and consumption fields—especially consumption, which has the greatest ability to absorb surplus rural labor. Migration of the population and farmers’ per capita net income promotes rural labor transfer, while the amount of rural labor, the urbanization rate in townships, agricultural development, and the topography have lagged effects on the process. This study argues that rural labor transfer in the mountains has regionality, multi-pattern, and gradient features; therefore, the promotion of rural labor transfer should consider local urbanization and poverty alleviation in such a manner that aligns with the local natural and socioeconomic conditions of the mountainous areas. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Gentrification as an Emerging Source of Environmental Research
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4847; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124847 - 19 Dec 2018
Abstract
Gentrification is a controversial term that refers to certain changes in neighbourhoods that result in the economic and social transformation of a low-income area into one of higher value, moving or pushing out the old population and businesses. The purpose of this paper [...] Read more.
Gentrification is a controversial term that refers to certain changes in neighbourhoods that result in the economic and social transformation of a low-income area into one of higher value, moving or pushing out the old population and businesses. The purpose of this paper is to highlight a new branch of research in the field of environmental studies. It presents a bibliometric analysis of the gentrification process, scanning the scientific articles published in journals since 1979, from different knowledge areas and analysing the impact factors and the evolution of the term itself. The review of scientific journals uses the Web of Science and Scopus databases for analysing the evolution of papers, the impact factors and references related to this concept. The results show that the literature related to gentrification is increasing at a very high rate, particularly in the fields of environmental science. Since 1987, the number of scientific papers in environmental studies that have focused on this topic have increased at an annual rate of 60.4%, making it a promising subject for researchers. Thus, the article represents a contribution to identify the main trends in gentrification research and environment and, from there, propose future research initiatives. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
In-Between Sprawl and Neo-Rurality: Sparse Settlements and the Evolution of Socio-Demographic Local Context in a Mediterranean Region
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3670; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103670 - 14 Oct 2018
Cited by 4
Abstract
Dispersed urbanization during the last half century has transformed metropolitan regions into well-connected, low-density residential areas. However, this kind of urbanization has changed irreversibly the traditional rural landscape around cities, leading to a new definition of ‘rurality’. The present work discusses the intimate [...] Read more.
Dispersed urbanization during the last half century has transformed metropolitan regions into well-connected, low-density residential areas. However, this kind of urbanization has changed irreversibly the traditional rural landscape around cities, leading to a new definition of ‘rurality’. The present work discusses the intimate relationship between urban sprawl and new forms of rurality. Considering economic downturns and the possible impact on landscape transformations, our study focuses on a representative Mediterranean case of urban sprawl (the metropolitan region of Athens, Greece). In this area, urban settlements expanded rapidly into fringe land, producing relevant socio-demographic transformations that have determined uneven changes in rural landscapes. A spatially-explicit investigation of local-scale dynamics that characterize population residing in sparse settlements over a long time period (1961–2011)—encompassing distinct phases of urban growth and rural development—is relevant for analysis of local changes in the relationship between sprawl and new forms of rurality. A new concept of ‘rurality’—adapting to rapidly-evolving, mixed rural/peri-urban contexts—require reframing the relationship between rural landscapes, scattered settlements, economic cycles and socio-demographic aspects, in the light of a truly sustainable development of local territories. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Toward a New Cycle: Short-Term Population Dynamics, Gentrification, and Re-Urbanization of Milan (Italy)
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3014; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093014 - 24 Aug 2018
Cited by 1
Abstract
After sequential cycles of urbanization and suburbanization, European cities underwent a (more or less intense) re-urbanization wave. The present study analyzes short-term population dynamics in the core of a large metropolitan region (Milan, northern Italy), providing evidence of spatially-heterogeneous re-urbanization characterized by spatially-complex [...] Read more.
After sequential cycles of urbanization and suburbanization, European cities underwent a (more or less intense) re-urbanization wave. The present study analyzes short-term population dynamics in the core of a large metropolitan region (Milan, northern Italy), providing evidence of spatially-heterogeneous re-urbanization characterized by spatially-complex population growth (or shrinkage) at a local scale. Population dynamics over 1999–2017 were assessed in 88 urban districts partitioning Milan′s municipal area and projected up to 2036 for the same spatial units. Empirical results identify spatially-complex and temporally non-linear dynamics with expanding or declining districts distributed heterogeneously across the study area. Multivariate analysis outlines a generalized population decline during 1999–2008 and an opposite pattern afterward (2008–2017), with spatially-homogeneous population expansion expected in the near future. Spatial analysis finally highlights that local-scale population growth rates were more clustered in 2008–2017 than in 1999–2008. While the population decreased continuously in the inner districts (<1 km from the city centre), sub-central districts (1–5 km far from the city centre) experienced mixed patterns of population growth and stability. These results confirm the relevance of local-scale policies managing urban renewal and rehabilitation and promoting metropolitan expansion in a spatially-coordinated manner. Full article
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Open AccessCase Report
Socioeconomic Development, Demographic Dynamics and Forest Fires in Italy, 1961–2017: A Time-Series Analysis
Sustainability 2019, 11(5), 1305; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11051305 - 01 Mar 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Empirical studies investigating long-term trends in wildfires’ frequency and severity have been relatively scarce in Europe. Number of fire events, total burnt area and average fire size were studied between 1961 and 2017 in Italy with the aim to identify homogeneous time periods [...] Read more.
Empirical studies investigating long-term trends in wildfires’ frequency and severity have been relatively scarce in Europe. Number of fire events, total burnt area and average fire size were studied between 1961 and 2017 in Italy with the aim to identify homogeneous time periods with similar wildfire frequency and severity and correlate them with the background socioeconomic context. Fire attributes had a diverging behavior over time: the number of fires was the highest in the 1970s and the early 1980s; total burnt area was relatively more constant over time with a peak in the 1980s; and, finally, average fire size decreased quite homogeneously from the peak observed in the 1960s and early 1970s. The number of fires and average fire size were significantly influenced by the value of the same variable one year before. Investigating long-term historical outlines of forest fires, a mixed approach based on time-series statistical analysis, multivariate techniques and regressive models intended to define changes in fire regimes and socioeconomic development. In fact, the comparative valuation of the socioeconomic aspects and wildfire trends can reveal a key step to recognizing mitigation and preventive possibilities. Through a multivariate analysis, a substantial difference in the socioeconomic profile can emerge by decade, evidencing a (more or less) rapid socioeconomic development in relation to the evolution of forest fires in Italy. Full article
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Open AccessCommentary
A Long-Term Analysis of Demographic Processes, Socioeconomic ‘Modernization’ and Forest Expansion in a European Country
Sustainability 2019, 11(2), 388; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11020388 - 14 Jan 2019
Abstract
This article investigates long-term forest decline and expansion vis-à-vis demographic processes in Italy, evidencing changes in the underlying socioeconomic context considering the ‘modernization theory’. An exploratory data analysis of 58 indicators assessing five basic research dimensions (territory, demography, education, trade and agriculture) and [...] Read more.
This article investigates long-term forest decline and expansion vis-à-vis demographic processes in Italy, evidencing changes in the underlying socioeconomic context considering the ‘modernization theory’. An exploratory data analysis of 58 indicators assessing five basic research dimensions (territory, demography, education, trade and agriculture) and evolving rapidly over the study period (1862–2009), was run to ascertain similarity patterns among indicators and to identify time intervals characterized by homogeneous conditions in different analysis’ domains. Complementing indicators of forest expansion, changes in population structure and dynamics allow an empirical investigation of temporal coherence among demographic and forest transitions in Italy. The time window encompassing the two World Wars, approximately between 1931 and 1951, was identified as a turning point in the forest-socioeconomic system, being characterized by two groups of indicators that follow diverging (linear vs. nonlinear) time trends. A secondary turning point was identified at the beginning of the 1970s. Distinct temporal trends in the studied indicators were also identified using multivariate statistics (before the 1930s, between the 1930s and the 1950s, between the 1950s and the 1970s, from the 1970s onwards) and represent conditions of dynamic equilibrium between socio-ecological contexts, highlighting latent transitions in both population and environment conditions. Our work definitely contributes to an empirical understanding of economic, political and social forces associated with forest transition and demographic transition in advanced economies. Full article
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Open AccessBrief Report
Demographic Transitions and Socioeconomic Development in Italy, 1862–2009: A Brief Overview
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 242; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010242 - 06 Jan 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The present study investigates long-term population dynamics in Italy, 1862–2009, in light of Demographic Transitions (DTs). Under the assumption that DTs are multidimensional processes of change involving several aspects, including population structure and dynamics, an exploratory analysis was carried out in this study [...] Read more.
The present study investigates long-term population dynamics in Italy, 1862–2009, in light of Demographic Transitions (DTs). Under the assumption that DTs are multidimensional processes of change involving several aspects, including population structure and dynamics, an exploratory analysis was carried out in this study to verify temporal coherency of 15 indicators in Italy, identifying homogeneous time periods with distinct demographic characteristics. Indicators’ trends were identified using a multivariate statistical approach. The results of this study allow empirical testing of the assumption of temporal coherence between different aspects of a long-term DT, distinguishing distinctive population dynamics and the differential impact on population structure over two centuries. After a relatively long period of demographic stability, the time window encompassing the two World Wars—approximately between 1921 and 1951—was identified as a primary turning point of population dynamics in Italy; a second turning point was estimated at the beginning of the 1970s. These time intervals may represent conditions of dynamic equilibrium between demographic and socioeconomic contexts, highlighting latent system transitions. The study concludes by outlining the importance of a more effective integration of demographic transition theories into a broader sustainability framework, and implementing a diachronic analysis of political, economic, and social forces associated with population dynamics in both advanced economies and emerging countries. Full article
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Open AccessCommentary
Population Dynamics in Southern Europe: A Local-Scale Analysis, 1961–2011
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 109; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010109 - 25 Dec 2018
Cited by 2
Abstract
Different socioeconomic, historical, political, and cultural factors have influenced long-term settlement patterns and demographic structures in Europe. Southern Europe is considered a relatively homogeneous region as far as settlement characteristics and population dynamics are concerned. Within-country local variability in the spatial distribution of [...] Read more.
Different socioeconomic, historical, political, and cultural factors have influenced long-term settlement patterns and demographic structures in Europe. Southern Europe is considered a relatively homogeneous region as far as settlement characteristics and population dynamics are concerned. Within-country local variability in the spatial distribution of population is high, and inherent differences across countries may outline distinct demographic patterns at regional scale. A comparative, local-scale analysis of population distribution in five countries (Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, and Cyprus) over a relatively long time period (1961–2011) contributes to identify latent demographic trends in Mediterranean Europe at the spatial scale of Local Administrative Units (LAU). A spatially-explicit analysis of basic indicators of population density and demographic change allows identification of territorial disparities, reflecting local-scale settlement patterns common to different countries (e.g., population growth along coastal districts). These patterns consolidate a metropolitan hierarchy centered on large—mainly compact—cities and more dispersed conurbations along coastal areas. At the same time, the examined countries present different territorial contexts resulting in distinct population dynamics in turn influenced by internal (e.g., national policies, culture and local identity, class segregation) and exogenous (e.g., economic cycle, urbanization models) factors. A spatially-explicit analysis of demographic trends at local scale may contribute to rethinking urban strategies and adapting spatial planning to heterogeneous socioeconomic contexts across Europe. Full article
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Open AccessCase Report
Population Matters: Identifying Metropolitan Sub-Centers from Diachronic Density-Distance Curves, 1960–2010
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4653; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124653 - 06 Dec 2018
Cited by 3
Abstract
The present study illustrates a simplified procedure identifying population sub-centers over 50 years in three Southern European cities (Barcelona, Rome, Athens) with the aim to define and characterize progressive shifts from mono-centric structures towards a polycentric spatial configuration of (growing) metropolitan regions. This [...] Read more.
The present study illustrates a simplified procedure identifying population sub-centers over 50 years in three Southern European cities (Barcelona, Rome, Athens) with the aim to define and characterize progressive shifts from mono-centric structures towards a polycentric spatial configuration of (growing) metropolitan regions. This procedure is based on a spatially-explicit, local-scale analysis of the standardized residuals from a log-linear model assessing the relationship between population concentration and the distance from a central place in each metropolitan region, under the hypotheses that (i) a mono-centric spatial structure is characterized by a linear relationship between the two variables and that (ii) population sub-centers—considered early signals of a more polycentric regional structure—are characterized by high and positive regression residuals. Results of this study indicate that the three cities have experienced distinctive urbanization waves influencing the overall metropolitan configuration, with variable impact on the original mono-centric structure. Population sub-centers include (i) peri-urban municipalities around the central city and more remote towns situated in rural districts (Barcelona); (ii) scattered towns at variable distances (20–30 km) from the central city (Rome); (iii) fringe municipalities and peri-urban locations in flat districts, 10–20 km away from the central city (Athens). These results may indicate a distinctive evolution path toward polycentric development in the three cities, more evident in Barcelona and Rome and less evident in Athens. The proposed methodology can be generalized and adapted to discriminate population from employment sub-centers in metropolitan regions all over Europe. Full article
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