New Spatial Mobility Patterns in Large Spanish Cities: from the Economic Boom to the Great Recession

  • Jordi Bayona-i-Carrasco
  • Fernando Gil-Alonso
  • Miguel Rubiales-Pérez
  • Isabel Pujadas-Rúbies


Until 2008—the beginning of the economic crisis—Spanish metropolitan areas were characterised by relatively high residential mobility, suburbanisation, and urban sprawl. Municipalities situated farthest away from the core cities were the areas that were expanding more rapidly, while urban cores were losing native population that was being replaced by foreign immigrants. All these features presumably changed when the Great Recession hit the Spanish economy and the housing bubble burst. Using two INE (Spanish National Statistical Institute) data sources, the Padrón, or local register, and the Estadística de Variaciones Residenciales, or residential moves statistics, this paper studies changing trends in residential mobility and migration between 1999 and 2012 in Spain, focusing on the country’s main urban areas: Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville. In particular, internal migration patterns during the economic expansion and crisis periods are compared. Despite the fact that high unemployment since 2008 has certainly affected pre-crisis trends, results show that residential mobility has decreased much less than expected. Nevertheless, territorial patterns have changed and are now much less polarised. Urban cores and inner-ring towns, which had previously been losing inhabitants because of people moving to outer-ring areas, are now losing less native population. By contrast, suburban municipalities, which had been the most attractive to internal migrants during the economic growth period, are now much less appealing, as corroborated by the fact that practically no new housing is being built in these areas and their housing market has plummeted.


Intra-metropolitan migration Residential mobility Metropolitan areas Economic crisis Spain 



This research was carried out under the R&D project “Desigualdad social, polarización territorial y formación de espacios vulnerables en las grandes áreas metropolitanas españolas" (CSO2015-65219-C2-1-R, MINECO/FEDER, UE), directed by Dr. Isabel Pujadas and Dr. Fernando Gil-Alonso, and financed by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation and by FEDER (EU). All of the authors of this article are members of the Territory, Population and Citizenship Research Group (GRC_2014SGR380), also directed by Dr. Isabel Pujadas. We would also like to thank Eva Jiménez-Julià and Joanna Freedman for their translation and revision work and the four external reviewers for their comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jordi Bayona-i-Carrasco
    • 1
  • Fernando Gil-Alonso
    • 2
  • Miguel Rubiales-Pérez
    • 2
  • Isabel Pujadas-Rúbies
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre d’Estudis Demogràfics and Geography Department, University of Barcelona, Facultat de Geografia i HistòriaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Geography DepartmentUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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