, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 319–332 | Cite as

From sprawl to compactness and back: population dynamics (1848–2011) and the economic structure of a Mediterranean city

  • Luca SalvatiEmail author


In the recent decades southern European cities experienced morphological changes and a demographic transition towards zero (or negative) growth and aging. Population dynamics shifted from the impressive growth of the post-industrial period into recent de-concentration processes determining the spillover of commercial and residential settlements across the surrounding rural areas. Based on long-term demographic data, the present study hypothesizes that urban expansion did not follow a one-way linear path from compactness to dispersion while reflecting differentiated growth patterns based on the specific socioeconomic context at the local scale. Along a sufficiently long time period non-linear expansion waves alternating settlement densification and scattering are expected to be found especially in complex urban contexts such as those developed in the Mediterranean region. This hypothesis was tested for a paradigmatic case study in southern Europe (Athens, Greece) using demographic data covering 160 years (1848–2011). Urban growth in Athens was assessed through the analysis of long-term census data made available on a district level. These data provide information on the spatial distribution of resident population and characterize distinct expansion waves according to the dominant socioeconomic context. Results of the study were discussed in the light of the debate on future development of the Mediterranean cities and the (changing) economic relations with the surrounding region.


Population density Settlement dispersion Expansion wave Multivariate analysis Athens 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Consiglio per la Ricerca e la sperimentazione in Agricoltura (CRA)RomeItaly

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