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Coming, Leaving and Staying: Migration Processes and Residential Location Decisions from the Perspective of Rural Areas (KoBaLd)
Client:Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL)
Partner(s):Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute/ Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries (Braunschweig, Germany)
Time frame:09/2018 – 10/2022

Internal migration is a crucial part of population development and can have a major impact on the number and structure of the population in an area. Even relatively small imbalances of in- and out-migration may over time lead to significant differences between the demographic development of regions and cities. Changes of the population can be accompanied by regionally different impacts such as housing shortages and displacement on the one hand and vacancies of housing units and shops and reduction of infrastructure and services on the other.

Against this backdrop, the research project aims to investigate internal migration in Germany in a comprehensive perspective focussing particularly on rural areas. Residential location decisions are examined in a holistic approach considering staying and recently discussed forms in-between immobility and mobility, such as multi-local living, as equal decision-making options. The following research questions are at the centre of attention:

  • Which trends and also reversals of trends in internal migration related to rural areas can be identified for the period from 2005 to 2016?
  • How are location decision-making processes negotiated within households? Which influencing factors are relevant within a location decision – whether to leave or to stay? Which criteria influence the selection of a particular residential location?
  • How do types of residential location decisions differ in terms of motives, conditions and household contexts?

Currently, the debate lacks a large survey providing a sound overview of reasons and motivations of location decisions. The KoBaLd project thus aims to close this gap. Existing surveys looking at case study cities and regions often cannot be compared since each of them uses a specific research design considering only a few common standards. This results in a rather incomplete overall picture comprising various findings for specific local contexts difficult to assess regarding the overarching relevance of individual phenomena. Thus, the project comprises four modules, however focussing on a large population survey complemented by further methodological elements:

  • Analysis of internal migration within Germany: Secondary statistical analysis of the official migration statistics comprising any internal migrations within the period from 2005 to 2016
  • Explorative household interviews: 30 semi-structured interviews including narrative elements on the housing biography and location decision-making processes
  • Population survey on residential location decisions: representative telephone survey of a total of 3,200 participants from all over Germany
  • Synthesis of findings and policy recommendations: Conclusion, discussion and transfer of findings into strategies and policies, especially for actors in rural areas


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