Re-urbanisation in Eastern-Germany: a controversial debate inbetween emphatic theories and rigged up data

Bernhard Koeppen, Universität Koblenz-Landau
Ralf Mai, Federal Institute for Population Research, Germany
Claus Schloemer, Bundesinstitut für Bau-, Stadt- und Raumforschung (BBSR)

While Eastern Germany’s urban regions have been confronted with substantial suburbanization during the 1990s, a potential "urban renaissance" or re-urbanization has recently shaped the scientific discourse. The existence of such a turnaround is underpinned by official migration statistics as well as findings from surveys of housing location preferences among urban residents. However, the interpretation of the terms "return of the city centre" or "re-urbanization" differs quite considerably. This paper aims to identify the structures underlying the patterns identifiable from the official migration statistics of Eastern German city regions. It is apparent that quantitatively significant migration into the cities is limited to younger adults. In Eastern Germany these age groups, which comprise large birth cohorts, increased their mobility towards the cities. However, this may be only a variation on classical migration patterns. The hypothesis that future re-urbanization could be driven by older age groups is also examined, also in the context of the return migration of former suburbanites. Although there are plausible, theory-oriented arguments for an increasing relevance of the cities in both relative and absolute terms, so far it has not been possible to identify empirical confirmation of a switch in trends. The current re-urbanization tendencies do not yet represent a significant trend but are rather an expression of internal migration which regulates itself in cycles and is polarized in the specific East German context but which does not yet point to a paradigm shift.

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Presented in Session 37: Spatial redistribution of population in European countries

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