Cities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: A Story of Urban Growth and Decline

Earlier World Bank studies1 have found two contrasting urbanization patterns emerging in certain Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECA) countries: a few cities are growing in population and are increasingly the hub of economic activity, while the large majority of cities are shrinking. These studies highlighted the need for further empirically-based studies to increase awareness of these trends as in-depth assessments revealed that national and local policies did not reflect the unique challenges associated with urban growth and decline. The need for a broader review of urban trends was also justified given the overall lack of documentation and thus lack of policy tools to address both urban population decline2 and the potential implications of decline on overall economic performance and fiscal efficiency. As a result of these studies, it was clear that the empirical base for the broader ECA region needed to be expanded, and the mechanisms behind the growth and decline dynamics needed greater scrutiny. 

This report is organized in four sections. SECTION 1: provides an overview of the socio-economic context in which many ECA cities consolidated. This section reviews the key factors that shaped the urban systems of ECA, including a discussion of the implication of urbanizing under planned economies and a discussion of recent demographic trends (migration and fertility). It also discusses the contribution of the urban sector to ECA region’s economy and the linkages between urbanization and economic development. SECTION 2: focuses on ECA’s urban systems and describes emerging trends in population and economic density using the Cities in ECA database, among them the emergence of two opposing patterns in ECA’s urban system: one of population growth and one of population decline. SECTION 3: takes a closer look at cities, comparing winners to losers4, evaluating underlying factors that could explain the cities’ relative position. Finally, SECTION 4: touches on the policy implications of the report’s empirical findings, highlighting how other countries and cities have managed decline, and identifies potential areas for further research.

The report is based on a unique database of more than 5,000 cities in the ECA region (see Data description below). The report does not intend to provide country-specific or in-depth assessment at the sub-regional level; nor does it cover other areas of interest (firm-level analysis, household-level analysis) or provide in-depth analysis of policy implications. These are its limitations, but form the potential for follow-on research. However, the report is complemented by 16 country-level snapshots that describe in detail country-specific trends. 

Source: World Bank

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.

Paula Restrepo Cadavid, Grace Cineas, Luis E. Quintero and Sofia Zhukova

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