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January 29, 2016 No tags

Project: Socio-Spatial Polarization – Driving Force and Outcome of Territorial Mobility in Post-Socialist Romania

ESR 1 : Aura Moldovan  (Host: UBB)


My project focuses on the interrelationship between unequal regional development and territorial mobility. The aim is twofold. First, to show how core-periphery disparities influence mobility flows (specifically flows of commuting and migration) by offering different levels of structural (dis)advantages. Second, to exemplify how various social groups can influence the accumulation of these (dis)advantages by choosing their place of residence and work. The regional focus is on the North-West Region in Romania, as it is one of the most polarised NUTS2 regions in a quickly developing country.


Over the past two and a half decades, the transition from a centralized to a market economy has affected the spatial configuration in countries of Central Eastern Europe by re-widening the gap between cores and peripheries at a regional scale. Capital cities, regional urban centres, and their surrounding suburbs have adapted more successfully to the transition and as a result have accumulated benefits in terms of creating jobs, generating tax revenues, enabling public investments in infrastructure, and engaging in a variety of political and innovation networks. The peripheries however, containing more secluded rural areas, mining settlements or the former mono-structural industrial regions, are facing a much slower development or even decline. Left with limited access to desirable resources (material or symbolic), and with restricted room for autonomous action, they are experiencing increasing peripheralisation and marginalisation.

As processes, selective migration and commuting are often listed amongst the main contributors to increasing polarization and peripheralisation. On the one hand, the concentration of young and skilled adults in core areas can be seen as a consequence of unequal educational and employment chances existing within a region, as well as a result of an existing stigma regarding future perspectives in peripheries. But at the same time, this brain drain from peripheries (and the implicit demographic shrinkage that it accompanies) is also a cause for further peripheralisation and polarisation, as out-migration and shrinkage negatively influence the level of sustainability for existing local economies, the prospects of new economic projects, and the overall quality of life.


In my research, I employ a mixed method approach, combining quantitative statistical data and qualitative interviews.  The statistical data analysis is employed to map internal migration over the past two decades, as well as present day commuter flows, categorizing the places of origin and destination in terms of cores and peripheries. This has shown how much the concentration of young, well-educated adults, working in specialized job sectors helps core cities and their suburban surroundings develop. Then, the qualitative interviews taken with public officials and local inhabitants of peripheral settlements show how different forms of mobility are employed as reactions to different effects of peripheralisation, and how they together affect the local development strategies of those settlements. Distinguishing between internal migration (where people re-place themselves in a new living environment) and commuting (where people take just their labour force to a different destination) generates a more nuanced picture, showing how the types of territorial mobility have a different impact on increasing polarization.

Results of the project were presented and discussed at internal Reg-Pol² meetings as well as at international conferences, such as:

  • 24th-27th May 2015, RSA Annual Conference, “Global Growth Agendas: Regions, Institutions and Sustainability”, Piacenza (IT)
  • 30th August – 2nd September 2015, EUGEO Conference, “Convergences and Divergences of Geography in Europe”, Budapest (HU)
  • 29th March – 2nd April 2016, American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting, San Francisco (USA)
  • 14th-16th September 2016, 10th European Urban & Regional Studies Conference: Europe, Crisis and Uneven Development, Chania (GR)
  • 5th-9th April 2017, American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting, Boston (USA)
  • 10th-13th September 2017, RSA Central & Eastern Europe Conference 2017, Cluj-Napoca (RO)
  • 27th-29th September 2017, Coping with uneven development in Europe: socio-economic and political responses to regional polarisation, Leipzig (DE)



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Main Contact Persons
  • Lead Partner: Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography

    Thilo Lang (Project coordinator):

    Franziska Görmar (Project manager): F_Goermar@ifl-leipzig.de

    Franziska Weyrich (Financial manager): F_Weyrich@ifl-leipzig.de

    WP leader for Dissemination and Outreach activities: MEPCO

    Martin Guba:

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