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Urban inequality and the demographic transformation of shrinking cities: The role of the foreign born

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel FranklinORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2020 Elsevier Ltd. Urban inequality and demography are inextricably linked. Inequality measures capture differences in access, outcomes, and characteristics for urban populations, and changes to these metrics are the result of underlying demographic change, which is in itself an unequal process. In this paper, we address the demographic transformation occurring across US metropolitan areas in recent years and evaluate the extent to which population change—a key index of economic opportunity and well-being—has been underpinned by the foreign born. In particular, our interest lies with shrinking and at-risk-of-shrinking metropolitan and micropolitan areas and the degree to which immigrants have impacted population change. We decompose foreign-born population contributions by place of origin, linking origin and destination geographies and also focus more specifically on the connections between city-suburb growth patterns and the role of the foreign born by place of birth. We find evidence that urban population loss is accompanied by increases in the foreign born, resulting in substantial transformation of the population composition of both central cities and outlying, suburban areas. Furthermore, we find that a number of areas avoided population loss during our study period, solely through net increases in the foreign born. Our findings are important from an urban inequality standpoint, suggesting an important role for the foreign born in mediating inter-city inequality, but also highlighting the need for strong policy responses that focus on the long-term integration and provision of services for these groups in order to mitigate the potential for increased inequality within and across these areas.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bagchi-Sen S, Franklin RS, Rogerson P, Seymour E

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Applied Geography

Year: 2020

Volume: 116

Print publication date: 01/03/2020

Online publication date: 14/02/2020

Acceptance date: 03/02/2020

Date deposited: 27/03/2020

ISSN (print): 0143-6228

ISSN (electronic): 1873-7730

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2020.102168


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