Demographic Patterns of Reurbanisation and Housing in Metropolitan Regions in the US and Germany

Karoline Brombach, Johann Jessen, Stefan Siedentop, Philipp Zakrzewski


After decades of decline, first signs of a central and inner city revitalisation were noticed towards the end of the 1980s in North American metropolitan areas. The repopulation and redevelopment of the metropolitan cores – often referred to as “reurbanisation”, “urban renaissance” or “back-to-the-city-movement” – has accelerated since then and is today one of the outstanding characteristics of recent urban development in the US. In Western and Central European urban regions, reurbanisation patterns were detected some years later although starting from a different level, as the inner cities have never faced a process of decay to the extent that was known in North American cities. At present, reurbanisation is intensely debated in urban and regional research. Although the evidence of reurbanisation is hardly questioned any longer, there is considerable uncertainty about how this new pattern of population change can be explained, how long it will last and how it will change the spatial urban structure of metropolitan areas in the long run. In this paper, we comparatively investigate recent trends of urban development in the US and Germany based on both survey and case study methods, with a focus on demographic patterns and housing. Our results suggest that reurbanisation is a universal trend in large metro regions in the Global North, manifesting itself as a significant repopulation and densification of core areas. At the same time, we found considerable divergence in terms of scale, dynamics and sociodemographic composition of reurbanisation patterns in the selected regions of the US and Germany.


* This article belongs to a special issue on reurbanisation.


Reurbanisation; Comparative urban research; US; Germany; Metropolitan areas; Demographic development; Housing

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