Understanding Immigrant Population Growth Within Urban Areas: A Spatial Econometric Approach

  • Joan Carles Martori
  • Philippe Apparicio
  • André Ngamini Ngui


During the last two decades, many studies have described the evolution of the spatial distribution of immigrant groups within an urban area (for example, by using segregation indexes). Nevertheless, the factors that could explain the growth of the immigrant population within an urban area have not yet been fully explored. Moreover, the studies referred to have mainly been conducted in countries that have traditionally received large populations of immigrants, such as the USA, Canada, the UK and Northern Europe. In regard to European cities, the case of the Barcelona metropolitan area (BMA) is particularly relevant: the percentage of immigrants in the total population has increased significantly within a very short period of time (from 5.05 % in 2001 to 15.16 % in 2008, 12.03 % in 2013). Consequently, the main objective of this study is to examine the factors influencing the relative variation in the percentage of non-EU immigrants during the period of stronger growth (2001–2008). From a methodological point of view, we constructed two spatial models at the census tract level: the spatial lag and spatial error models. The predictors that we selected encompass several dimensions: socioeconomic status (unemployment, low education, household income and blue-collar workers), immigrant diversity (entropy), housing (small dwellings and condition of dwelling), and population density and distance to the central business district (CBD). According to the results of the spatial models, the most important factors explaining the growth of immigrant populations are, in descending order: household income, small dwellings and immigrant diversity.


Immigration Barcelona metropolitan area Spatial models 



The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the original version of this paper. This paper was first presented at the 5th World Conference of the Spatial Econometrics Association (SEA) in Toulouse, France, in July 2011. We are grateful to the participants for their comments and to Jesus Mur for his valuable suggestions on various drafts of the paper. The study has been funded by the ARAFI2008 program of the Catalan Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joan Carles Martori
    • 1
  • Philippe Apparicio
    • 2
  • André Ngamini Ngui
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Economics and BusinessUniversity of VicVicSpain
  2. 2.INRS Centre Urbanisation Culture SociétéMontréalCanada
  3. 3.Centre de Réadaptation en Dépendance de MontréalInstitut UniversitaireMontréalCanada

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