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A cross-national classification of rural areas, for a cross national exploration of rural gentrification (France, UK, US)

Abstract : Classifying and mapping rural areas is not straightforward within discrete national contexts given representations of rurality are locally and regionally diverse and contested. Moreover, the problematics of comparing rural areas and rural change across national contexts is compounded by representations of rurality being nationally-specific, and profound differences between urban/rural systems and hierarchies, as well as unique physical spatialities of nations. A last but not least, cross national approach of the rural gentrification also supposed to deal with different institutional and normative frameworks of rurality and “the rural”. It mainly refers : - for UK, to the threshold of 10.000 people making differences between urban and rural areas, - for US, to the 'administrative' distinction between metropolitan and non metropolitan counties, - for France, to the increasing use of the Aires Urbaines Insee classification that excludes reference to rural areas or at least that considers sparsely areas according to the unique way of significant or non significant urban influence. Yet, there is challenge and merit in seeking to construct cross-national mappings of rural areas to enable investigations of the similarities and differences between processes of rural change and rural social reproduction across national contexts. By borrowing conceptual and methodological approaches from the three scientific contexts, this paper presents such a manoeuvre to map rural and peri-urban (what we prefer to term ‘semi-rural’) areas in a standard way, and using common methods, in a cross-national context. We then use and manipulate census and commuting data to provide comparative classifications of rurality. First, in line with official UK definitions of rurality, we define rural areas where the population is less than 10,000 people (i.e. we exclude urban areas as populations of 10,000 or more). We therefore use the RUC classification in the UK to partly apply it : - to communes in France, with an extensive use of the morphological Insee classification in Urban Units (UU), - to census tracts in the US, firstly, decoupling rural areas from within metropolitan counties to create ‘metropolitan rural areas’, and identify ‘non-metropolitan rural areas’ from non-metropolitan counties, secondly, evaluating the urban concentration of more of less than 10.000 people. We then use commuting data to distinguish between rural areas according both 1. to various intensities of commuting (30 to 60 %, and where active population represents a significant proportion of the overall population) and 2. to the size of the nearest urban centre. We demonstrate the utility of these similar rural designations by mapping simple indicators of rural gentrification across the three national contexts. The analysis highlights how rural gentrification varies considerably within national contexts yet is remarkably similar across national contexts. Places showing the strongest evidence of gentrification cluster either in areas functionally linked to urban cores through higher levels of commuting or in more remote rural regions characterized by natural amenities and recreational resources. Actually, the analysis also shows that the quantitative approach may be unequally helpful and pertinent to identify intensity and spaces of rural gentrification.
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Submitted on : Monday, June 13, 2016 - 9:20:23 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, June 16, 2022 - 5:42:53 PM


  • HAL Id : halshs-01331473, version 1


Pierre Pistre, Peter Nelson, Darren Smith, Chloe Kinton, Julien Dellier, et al.. A cross-national classification of rural areas, for a cross national exploration of rural gentrification (France, UK, US). « La renaissance rurale d’un siècle à l’autre ? », May 2016, Toulouse, France. ⟨halshs-01331473⟩



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