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  A process of population deconcentration away from large urban settlements first identified in the USA in the 1970s where metropolitan areas, especially the largest and oldest, were losing population by net migration to non-metropolitan areas. The number of places experiencing such decline increased in the following years as people and jobs moved: (a) beyond the suburbs to smaller settlements within metropolitan labour areas; and (b) to the smaller, rapidly growing metropolitan centres of the sunbelt (see sunbelt/snowbelt). Evidence suggested that counterurbanization was widespread in the advanced industrial countries during the 1980s, but large cities are beginning to grow again in some countries, suggesting that counterurbanization as a dominant trend was but a brief episode.

Attempted explanations for the decline of large and the growth of smaller cities focus on the latter\'s attractions and the disadvantages of the former for both employers and householders. Smaller towns offer cheaper, more extensive tracts of land and more pliant labour forces lacking strong traditions of militant trade unionism, and these advantages more than counter the greater costs of movement of goods, which in any case are reducing with the trend to higher value, less bulky goods and better road transport. For many households, the smaller places are more attractive than the congested and polluted cities, even for commuters who are prepared to trade longer, more expensive journeys for the pleasanter but remoter living environments. And in ageing populations with an increased percentage of retired healthy and relatively affluent people, the smaller towns (and even the remoter rural areas) offer a better perceived quality of life to many, usually at lower cost, than the large cities (cf. centrifugal and centripetal forces). (RJJ)

Suggested Reading Berry, B.J.L., ed., 1976: Urbanization and counterurbanization. Beverly Hills and London: Sage Publications. Champion, A.G. 1991: Counterurbanization. London: Edward Arnold.



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Other Terms : questionnaire | Marxian economics | von Thünen model
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