Population dynamics and ethnic geographies in urban areas: how do migration and natural change impact population composition and segregation?

Lena Imeraj, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Nissa Finney, University of St Andrews
Sylvie Gadeyne, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Western European cities show modest but persistent levels of spatial segregation. The role of cities as ports of arrival for the highly diversified influx of international migration in the past decades, suggests this influx to act as a fundamental mechanism for urban population change and spatial fragmentation. The increasing public concern regarding the integration of these migrants has given migration and segregation both a prominent position on the political and academic agenda. Importantly, however, other population processes might shape the specific distribution and composition of the population in (sub)urban areas to a greater extent than they are often given credit for. Given that the variability of former and current flows of international migrants results in a divergent ethnic composition and fragmentation of urban populations, natural change of the present (migrant) population feasibly has a differential impact upon the ethnic composition of the urban population and hence the ethnic geography. Research on population change and spatial segregation that includes internal and international migration as well as natural population change remains scarce. This study aims to address this lacuna by assessing the relative impact of each of these components on the observed changes or status quo in population composition and ethnic segregation levels. Based on the specificities of migrant groups in Belgian cities, it is hypothesized that the contribution of the components varies within and between cities. The study makes use of comprehensive Belgian census data from 1991 and 2001, linked to the National Register (up to 1/1/2010) and uses a comparative approach considering the multiple ethnic minority groups relevant for the Belgian context and the five metropolitan cities. As such, it contributes to the furthering theoretical and empirical comprehension of how population dynamics shape urban population change, urban geography and spatial polarisation, thereby providing a base for future urban policy interventions.

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Presented in Session 32: Urban population dynamics