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Rural demographic change over space and time - the case of Vilhelmina municipality
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Geography and Economic History, Economic and social geography.
2015 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Since the 1960s the literature on demography of rural northern Sweden has focussed on 'decline' - noting loss of population, population ageing, yourth outmigration and other 'negative' demographic developments (Friedlander, 1969; Hjort, 2009; Stone 1971); recent studies suggest that such generalizations may overlook the diversity of experiences of rural areas (D. Carson and Koch, 2013; Cernic-Maly, Koch and Koch, 2014; Hedlund, 2014; Hoggart and Paniagua, 2001; Koch and Carson, 2012). The purpose of this thesis is to explore aspets of the diversity of experiences of demographic change in one part of rural northern Sweden, focusing on differences between villages and towns within a single municipality.

Theoretically, the large body of scientific studies of 'rural' tend to be at macro-scale and from the 'urban' perspective, which might provide generalized and biased assumptions of 'rural'; this study may contribute to the understanding of 'rural' by describing it 'how it really is' and by looking into demographic diversity and change at the micro-scale. Practically, the thesis might assist local planners to take 'place-based' decisions when planning for the future of rural areas when deciding where to place schools, health centres, youth activities centres, playgrounds, or invest in economic opportunities, etc. Moreover, this thesis should answer the following research questions: 

Q1: Is there diversity in demographic characteristics when comparing proximate locations in the Swedish rural setting?

Q2: If there is, is it something that has recently emerged, or sothing that has been present for a long period of history?

The thesis studied the case of Vilhelmina municipality, in this case defined by local government boundaries, in three stages: first, looked at how settlement patterns within the area have changed over time - where has there been population growth? Decline? Both? Neither? - using data from 1890, 1970 and 2015. Second, selected five individual locations (defined by village' borders) within the area that have featured at those points in time, and compared them in terms of age, sex, age dependency ratios, and child-woman rates. Third, accessed secondary historical data and interviewed key informants with knowledge of these places to check which events could have influenced shaping them over the time.

The findings of the thesis were: 'fragmentedä development over time, differences between individual places at different time; differences between different places at the same time; local, regional, national and international events and trends are likely to have played a role in these results. According to the findings, I can conclude that even since the 1960s, not all locations in rural northern Sweden have had the same experience of 'decline'. Furthermore, not all places share the presumed characteristics of rural areas - i.e. some are younger and some are older, etc. Hence, even the same events influence proximate places in different ways depending on their specific location (e.g. near geographical feature that become more or less valued), their connections with other places (through economic activities, communications, family ties, etc), rules and regulations especially regarding land use, and availability of infrastructure.

This thesis describes the demographics of a case in rural northern Sweden in the micro perspective related to temporal and spatial scales. This study provides empirical evidence and might support arguments about the importance of scale and diversity of rural conditions. Moreover, it emphasises, as Koch and Carson (2012) did, the need to understand the spatial scale at which assessments of rural demographic change are being made. Lastly, more academics should perform this genre of research, so that we move past incomplete messages and concepts about rural development that have dominated in northern Sweden since the 1960s.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. , 48 p.
Keyword [en]
rural, population assessment, demographic change, diversity, settlement, micro-scale, municipality, village, time and space, evolution, and historical events, and fragmented development
National Category
Human Geography
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-105391OAI: diva2:825048
Subject / course
Examensarbete i Geografi, för magisterexamen
Educational program
Master's Program in Tourism
2015-05-26, Umeå Universitet - Samhällsvetenskap S212, Umeå, 08:15 (English)
Available from: 2015-06-23 Created: 2015-06-23 Last updated: 2015-06-23Bibliographically approved

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Yoshida Ahlin, Celia
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