Measure to define: characterization of urban shrinkage in France

Mathilde Rudolph, Université de Strasbourg
Frédérique Cornuau, Université Lille 1
Nicolas Cauchi-Duval, Université de Strasbourg

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in shrinking cities among political elites, policymakers, activists, journalists and the public opinion. Urban scholars have convincingly argued that urban shrinkage is the result of a global process, and its intensity, its causes and consequences vary and interact differently depending on local contexts. Recent works have identified than urban shrinkage is the result of a complex interplay between three main causes: economic transformations, suburbanisation and demographic changes. In France, the literature about shrinking cities is still emerging, since cities (wrongly) appear as ‘shrinkage-proof’ because population losses are weaker, the abandonment of city-centres has mostly affected small and middle-sized cities and fertility rates are still much higher than in many developed countries. And yet, several cities experienced shrinkage, like for example Saint-Etienne, Le Havre or Montbéliard. In spite of the growing number of academic works, there is no consensus on the most suitable definition of urban shrinkage, demonstrating the difficulties encountered in setting up rigorous criteria in terms of city size, administrative scales, amount and also period of decline. Thenceforth, this paper aims firstly at identifying how a variety of periods and statistical units considered in the extent of the decline (inhabitants, households, employment, etc.) offer different intensity and form of the phenomenon. From this, it will secondly offer a typology of shrinking cities. Its originality lies on the emphasis of different clusters of shrinkage built on empirical evolution of degrowth, and not on predetermined definition of shrinkage. Our analysis will be based on wide range of data: census and civil records, the permanent facilities database, the Local knowledge of the productive system, the Localised tax revenues System, etc. Thirdly, the different profiles of the typology and the relevance of considering some profile of decay as shrinkage will be discussed.

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 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session 2