Population Dynamics and Ethnic Geographies in Urban Areas: The Role of Migration and Natural Change in 1991-2001 and 2001-2011

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

The role of cities as ports of arrival for the diverse international immigrants 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 into the host society has given immigration a prominent position on the political and academic agenda. Importantly however, past and current migration flows have resulted in a growing stock of migrant populations unequally spread throughout the urban areas. Rather than a mere focus on international migration, this paper investigates the total demographic impact of migrant populations on the ethnic composition and geographic distribution in urban areas over time. To that end, in evaluating urban population change, we include the processes of internal migration and natural change in the present migrant population next to international arrivals of new migrants. This study makes use of Belgian census data of 1991, 2001 and 2011, linked to National Register data. It uses a multiple comparative approach in considering two time periods (1991-2001 and 2001-2011), five urban areas (Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège) and 12 origin groups relevant to the Belgian context. With this we contribute to key debates related to urban population dynamics, population change and spatial polarisation in the field of urban geography and population studies, thereby furthering the theoretical and empirical framework and providing a base for future policy interventions.

Background& Framework

Thecontinuous international immigration into the European Union during the 20thcentury has resulted in a multi-ethnic society that faces many political,economic and social challenges.The specific settlement patterns and subsequent residential behaviour ofinternational immigrants are believed to contribute greatly to the persistenceof spatial disparities in terms of socio-economic and ethnic characteristics (Bailey,2012). Migration, however, is not an isolated process but coexists withother demographic components (Finney & Simpson, 2009). Due to the growing migrant stockand the younger age structure of most ethnic minority groups, the process ofnatural population change becomes of great importance in urban areas with aconsiderable and growing share of young foreign-born. As such, naturalincrease is likely to become the main source of population change for ethnic diverseneighbourhoods (Johnson & Lichter, 2008). Conversely, theincreasing assimilation of immigrants could counterbalance this argument astheir residential (Catney, 2015), reproductive (Andersson,2004)and health behaviour (Vandenheede et al., 2015) overtime converges towards the native population.

Urban locations are highly suitablefor investigating population dynamics and patterns of segregation, since urbanareas function as places of settlement for many migrants, spatial and socialunevenness is most pronounced and migration rates are highest (Musterd,2005).The differential spatial mobility of ethnic minorities is supportive to thedecision to focus our analyses on urban areas (Bolt & Kempen,2010; Simpson & Finney, 2009).


This study aims (i) toevaluate the contribution of demographic components to changing urbanpopulation’s composition and distribution in Belgium’s largest urban areas;(ii) to explore how the contribution of demographic components evolves overtime (observation periods 1991-2001 and 2001-2011), i.e. convergence ofdemographic behaviour; (iii) to zoom in on remarkable neighbourhoods within theurban areas. Understanding the components of population dynamics of urban areasis important for development of theories of urban change in the context ofsuper-diversity; for providing a more nuanced perspective on segregationdebates; and for informing policy-makers on the processes that underliechanging populations as an evidence base for more appropriate interventions.


Data &Methods

Analyses drawon the 1991, 2001 and 2011 Belgian censuses. These unique databases cover theentire de jure population, hence allow to identify individualdemographic behaviour for each record in the population without being dependentof estimations.

Analysesfocus on the cities of Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Liège and Charleroi during twodecades, i.e. 1991-2001 and 2001-2011. Migrant populations are defined based onthe country of origin. First- as well as second-generation migrants areincluded. We distinguish between 12 large origin groups, relevant tothe Belgian (European) context.

In a first step, population change between 1991-2001and 2001-2011 for each decade is calculated using

Change (’91-’01)*=[B + IN + in] – [D +OUT + out] *similar for ’01-‘11

forall five urban populations and all migrant populations, with B being thenumber of births, IN the number of international in-migrants, inthe number of internal in-migrants; and D being the number of deaths; OUTthe number of international out-migrants, out the number of internalout-migrants.

Inaddition, ethnic segregation in all urban areas is measured in 1991, 2001 and2011 (statistical sector as basic spatial unit), using traditional one-group,two-group and/or multi-group segregation indices (e.g. Gini, Isolation, Entropy,Theil, Normalized Exposure, Location Quotient, etc.). These indices elucidatethe degree of unevenness, concentration, clustering, or exposure for specificgroups and allow calculating decadal changes in segregation and tracing of theevolution of the ethnic mosaic during the observation period (usingGIS-software).

In a second step, decomposition is applied in order todetermine the migrant-specific contribution of internal movements,international migration and natural population change, to the overall observedpopulation change and ethnic segregation in the cities. To explore trends ofassimilation, this procedure is repeated for both decades under consideration.A similar approach is applied with regards to the in-depth analysis of remarkableneighbourhoods.


PreliminaryResults [1991-2001] & Future Analyses

In sum, demographicprocesses are highly relevant (see table 1), however, operate differently inthe various migrant populations and urban areas considered. The continuous inflowof international migrants coming from new as well as traditional sendingcountries remains an important driver, particularly in Brussels (see figure 1).Natural change (mainly in in established migrant populations), however,increasingly impacts upon urban populations and ethnic geographies. We found considerablecity-specific patterns due to varying contribution of the demographic driversin each of the present migrant groups. For now, the link between demographiccomponents and (changed) segregation is not straightforward.

Future research will focus on the second decade and onremarkable neighbourhoods (with similar analyses). Also, we feel thatparticular attention needs to be devoted to (1) the role of spatialconcentration for changing ethnic geographies and segregation’s outspokenness;(2) and concepts of counter-urbanisation, migration effectiveness, anddispersal out of concentration areas for different migrant populations.




Presented in Session 1234: Internal Migration and Urbanization