Counter Urbanisation | Meaning, Factors, Effects and Examples

What is Counter Urbanisation?

Counter urbanisation is said to occur when an urban area starts losing its population or when there is decrease in the population of an urban area. In other words when population loss of urban core exceeds the population gain of the ring of agglomeration resulting in loss in overall population then counter urbanisation is said to take place. Whereas Urban growth or urbanisation refers to the growth in urban population in an area over the period of time. There are many factors when the natural urban population growth in an area might reduce temporarily or keep on declining for a long time. Prolonged decline in the population in an urban area is a matter of concern for municipalities and concerned authorities.

In simple terms, “Counter Urbanisation” is a term used to describe the movement of people out of cities and into rural areas. The net urban population growth is negative. One of the reason of negative growth can be a negative net migration i.e. the out migration exceeds the in migration. This is happening around the world, including in countries like China and India. In general, it’s been happening for some time as people move from rural to urban areas, however more and more people are now moving in the opposite direction. The factors that have resulted in counter urbanization are increasing population, limited land to satisfy the needs of growing population, overpopulation and migration. Counter Urbanisation refers to the trend of people moving to rural areas and small towns as opposed to cities.

Some of the factors for counter urbanisation are –

  1. Availability of low cost labour in rural areas or lack of affordable housing
  2. Availability of land for new industries
  3. Transportation and communication facilities in rural areas.
  4. Urban Unemployment
  5. Suburbanised villages

Counter urbanisation was first described in the book Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream by Andres Duany, Jeff Speck, and Mike Lydon.

This process is taking place all over the world and it is a well established fact that there has been a decline in rural areas across the world with regard to population and employment. However, in some cases, this decline is more than what can be attributed to economic development alone. Some examples of counter urbanisation include people moving to smaller cities to live a slower and more relaxed lifestyle, or younger people moving back in with their parents after college because they can’t afford rent.

Counter Urbanisation is a term first coined by Patrick Geddes in 1915. It is the process of taking the good parts of urban life and applying them to rural areas. It can also mean bringing nature back into the city and vice versa. Factors resulting in counter urbanisation include the fact that city-dwellers are increasingly exposed to various environmental and public health risks such as food-borne diseases, air and water pollution, noise disturbances and crime. There are many examples of counter urbanisation. First, many people choose to move to smaller towns or rural areas in order to live a more peaceful life. This is known as “voluntary counter urbanisation”.

Counter urbanisation can also be defined as a demographic or social process whereby people move from urban areas or urban centre to rural areas which is generally due to depreciation or overcrowding of inner city. This is the condition developed in cities of developed nations as a result of densification and high population growth due to natural growth and migration. This growth also leads to congestion is city to which people reacts by moving outside the cities. This is seen as an option by those who can afford to travel back to city daily for their work, on the other hand Counter Urbanisation is not seen in case of poor cities as poor cannot afford to travel a large distance daily and also because of the nature of work they do requires them to be in proximity of workplace. Population movement is also linked to growth rate as in large cities of developed countries the cost of living increases substantially. Urban center has one of the highest land prices and thus the rents paid by people living in downtown areas. People living in small towns and much more responsive & effective local government face less issues related to counter urbanization.

Related: Hoyt Model or Sector ModelMultiple Nuclei ModelRank-Size RuleSatellite City

What are the factors resulting in Counter Urbanisation?

Counter urbanisation is considered to be a negative sign for any urban area. Examples of areas undergoing counter urbanisation are very less as the overall population more or less remains same over the time or in a general case increases over time. There are number of factors responsible for counter urbanisation which include economic factors, social factors, increasing problems within city, crime rates, migration etc.

Counter Urbanisation push and pull factors

Economic factors: Cities are considered to be engines of economic growth and people migrate to cities in search of better employment opportunities. But when city stops offering the jobs and prospects of better income then the attractiveness of a city decreases. This might happen due to continuous loss of business, change in policies, shift of industries etc. Housing market has a large role to play as it influences the decision of individuals who are looking to reside in urban areas.

Migration: This is the most important factor which informs about the counter urbanisation. An overall decrease in population clearly indicates this. The push and pull factors from the affected urban area and the surrounding areas play a large role in triggering the migration in search of better opportunities. Migration patterns can help in identifying the possible reason of why people are leaving a place. Urban rural migration patterns are often studied to understand the impact of migration. Gentrification, high land prices, unemployment, economic decline are additional reasons for increased rural urban migration.

Policies: Policies framed by local government in a small town can have a large-scale impact over both urban and rural areas. However the impact and the need to regulate activities is more in urban areas and medium towns as compared to rural areas. Shifting of polluting activities mainly industries, decentralisation of economic activities, redevelopment projects, population de-densification, increased taxes, inability to provide basic amenities, failure to control crimes, increase in land and housing price etc are responsible for loss of urban population. Government plays a large role in managing and providing the facilities and services which people require on a regular basis.

Technology: Evolution of technology provided a more control over life for mankind, in many cases the need to travel decreased and thus the need to live within an urban area or to visit urban area also reduced in some cases. The rapidly growing concept of work from home is good enough for some to stay and work in rural area than to migrate to cities. Similarly mobile phones, better education and health services in rural areas decreases the need for migration to cities.

Living conditions: Living conditions in an area have a direct impact on the residents. Everyone wish to live at a place with good quality of life and better living conditions. If a city fails to maintain its basic infrastructure or faces epidemic or some other issue affecting masses than it’s a warning sign and strong factor of out-migration. Industrial areas are known for poor environmental conditions which have negative impact on health, similar is the case for areas located near mines. Condition of metropolitan areas and the central business districts is of particular importance.

There can be a number of other reasons for counter urbanisation which can be people specific, due to deteriorating condition of city, natural calamity, lack of attractiveness or lack of economic opportunities in the urban area. Possible reason for population decline can be out-migration or decline in natural population growth i.e. decline in birth rate or increase in death rate. People might move to other areas which offer better quality of life and a better price. Cities which neglect spending on social services and public welfare witness counter urbanisation and it needs to be dealt with care. Many of the cities provide incentives in form of tax rebates, relaxations, reduced property tax or development charges to attract people to tackle counter urbanisation.

Related Articles:

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  2. Advantages of living in the city
  3. Disadvantages and Issues of living in a City or City Life
  4. Difference between Village life and City Life
  5. Causes of Urban Poverty

Effect and consequences of counter urbanisation

Any place needs a threshold population for the activities to continue. A small change in population does not have adverse affect on this threshold population but a large or sudden movement of people or economic activities outside the city might result in collapse of the city. Once the number of people supporting the whole financial system decreases the burden of expenditure to maintain current standard or even to provide the  a particular service falls on the remaining population. per capita expenditure of residents increases if they wish to avail that facility or service. This additional burden or the deterioration of the facilities will ultimately force the people who were initially unwilling to leave the city to move to different place. If immediate actions are not taken by the concerned agency than prolonged counter urbanisation results in decay and ultimately collapse or the urban area.

Examples of Counter Urbanisation

There are various examples of counter urbanisation, one example includes Cramlington and Washington acting as new town for Newcastle-upon Tyne in Britain which underwent decrease in urban population because of the collapse of industrial activity with the core of city.  Milton Keynes is another good example next to London. It is also considered that people are leaving California and prefer to move towards Northern interior and moving to Arizona, Nevada and upto Seattle and Portland.

Read about: What is Migration, Rural urban fringe: Concept, History, Reasons, Issues

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