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Counterurbanization, or de-urbanization, is a demographic and social process whereby people move from urban areas to rural areas. It is, like suburbanization, inversely related to urbanization. It first occurred as a reaction to inner-city deprivation [1] More recent research has documented the social and political drivers of counterurbanization and its impacts in developing countries such as China, which are currently undergoing the process of mass urbanization.[2] It is one of the causes that can lead to shrinking cities.


Counterurbanization is the process by which people migrate from urban to rural communities, the opposite of urbanization. People have moved from urban to rural communities for various reasons, including job opportunities and simpler lives. In recent years, due to technology, this process has been occurring in reverse. With new communications technology, people from rural communities can work from home because they can connect with each other via rural Internet, which means some employment opportunities no longer require moving to an urban community.[3] Counterurbanization is about people being able to explore alternatives to living in the city, creating changes in living location preferences.[4]

In past years, a multi-corporation business would use outsourcing by hiring workers in poorer countries for cheap labor. In more recent years, corporations have been using "rural sourcing which involves using small to medium sized town as a source of labor. This creates jobs in the country and also for rural communities so they do not need to move their entire family to a whole new setting and also reduces unnecessary expense for the companies. Most of the workers in these rural settings get paid less but have an option of either working from home or an office. If they were in an urban setting, the company would spend more money on an entirely new office for the urban based employees to work at.[3]

In the past, the general migration trend in the United States has been from the east to the west. Art Hall, an executive director of the Centre for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas School of Business states "California has been losing people for at least a decade ... two patterns of migration are under way in California. People are leaving the coast and moving to the Northern interior. When they leave, they tend to go places like Arizona and Nevada. So it's not a far move. And they also are going up north to Seattle and Portland. Part of the answer there is that it's just very expensive to live on the California coast."[5]

According to Hall, people have been influenced to move because of factors like climate, jobs, and tax rates. Hall also found that people who are not a part of a more stable family will tend to move more.[5] People choosing to live in rural areas have found it more beneficial because of cleaner air, peace and quiet, and lots of space. Smaller towns have also been proven to be convenient for the inhabitants as well.[3]

Recent data by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) shows that people are moving from big cities with populations over 4 million to much smaller cities with around 1-2 million people.[3]

The reasons that people are leaving cities for smaller cities is not the same across the globe. For Russia, jobs have not always moved to rural areas to accommodate those who want to leave the city. Rather, people find themselves having two homes, one in the city during work days and one in rural areas for days off. There is a weak infrastructure outside of cities to accommodate people who wish to completely relocate. In 2010, it was found that two-thirds of small towns are depressed, meaning that it has a large working-age population that is unemployed, and businesses are not profitable.[4]

Counterurbanization is different around the globe because there is no universal definition. All definitions vary, but revolve around the central idea of physical movement from a populated location to a less populated location. Clare J.A. Mitchell, an associate professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Waterloo, published that in Europe, counterurbanization is the process of deconcetration of one area to another that is beyond suburbanization or metro decentralization. Australia views counterurbanization as the net migration downwards in a hierarchy.[6] Though many definitions exist, Mitchell states that counterurbanization is a descriptive term that describes a type of migration.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Griffiths, Michael. B., Flemming Christiansen and Malcolm Chapman. (2010) 'Chinese Consumers: The Romantic Reappraisal’. Ethnography, Sept 2010, 11, 331-357.
  3. ^ a b c d Science Daily
  4. ^ a b Nefedova, T.G. (May 2016). "Urbanization, Counterurbanization, and Rural –Urban Communities Facing Growing Horizontal Mobility". Sociological Research. 55 (3): 195. doi:10.1080/10610154.2016.1245570. Retrieved 29 March 2017. 
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ Mitchell, Clare J.A (28 May 2003). "Making sense of counterurbanization". Journal of Rural Studies. 20 (1): 15–34. 

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