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Urban growth in northern peripheries and new development opportunities for sparsely populated hinterlands

Research project The project investigates how rapid urban growth in northern peripheries has impacted on ‘spillover’ of human capital and regional development opportunities into rural areas, using case studies from northern Sweden, Australia and Alaska.

The research examines the movements of people between northern cities and their sparsely populated hinterlands, and how these ‘mobilities’ have contributed to the development of human, economic, social and cultural capital in rural communities. We compare the experiences of capital spillover between Umeå and northern Sweden, Darwin and the Northern Territory of Australia, and Anchorage and Alaska. The project combines quantitative analyses of population mobility patterns, analysis of regional development policies, and qualitative case studies of hinterland communities in northern Sweden, Australia and Alaska.

Head of project

Doris Carson
Research fellow (on leave), research fellow

Project overview

Project period:

2016-09-27 2020-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Faculty of Social Sciences

Research area

Economic history, Human geography

Project description

Rapid urbanisation in sparsely populated northern peripheries has been a common phenomenon in many developed countries, including Sweden, the United States and Australia, where a few regional cities have grown substantially in recent decades while their rural hinterlands have declined both demographically and economically. How these growing ‘cities of the north’ may contribute to future development in the rural hinterland is currently not well understood. This project will compare different ‘cities of the north’, including Umeå in Västerbotten, Anchorage in Alaska (US), and Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, and their impacts on ‘spillover’ of capital into rural areas. The research will examine how urban growth has impacted on the movement of people between the city and the countryside, and how these ‘mobilities’ have contributed to the development of human, economic, social and cultural capital. The movement of people is a critical factor in mobilising knowledge, labour, skills, and finance, and changing mobilities for the purposes of living, working and recreation have been a key feature of northern economic and human geographies in recent decades. The research will be conducted over 5 years and involve a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. It will examine changing mobility patterns emerging from different ‘cities of the north’ through secondary population and visitor data sources. It will then analyse economic and regional development policies and other public documents to identify why these patterns have emerged. The project will finally focus on several rural community case studies to understand how mobilities have stimulated new investment, knowledge transfer, and the development of social and cultural capital in the hinterland. Experiences will be compared between the three jurisdictions to improve our understanding of ‘cities of the north’, their changing mobility dynamics, and their implications for northern development.

Keywords: urban growth centres, population mobilities, core-periphery spillover, sparsely populated north
Latest update: 2018-06-20