Urban Forum

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 1–13 | Cite as

Disaggregated Population Migration Trends in South Africa Between 1996 and 2011: a Differential Urbanisation Approach

  • H. S. GeyerJr.Email author
  • H. S. GeyerSr.


Recent literature regarding population migration and urbanisation patterns in Sub-Saharan Africa indicates that migration patterns are far more complex than originally suggested, with evidence of counterurbanisation and reurbanisation patterns. Furthermore, migration patterns are strongly affected by diverse economic and policy pressures which often have unintended adverse effects on population movements. To this end, the study analyses long-term population migration and industry agglomeration patterns between 1996 and 2011 to evaluate the effects of economic growth and policy in population movements in post-apartheid South Africa. Moreover, the study disaggregates subpopulations in categories of age, ethnicity, income and education, enabling researchers to understand contradictory mainstream and substream migration trends based upon differential urbanisation theory. The study also debates the spatial effects of economic and social migration motivations on migration patterns in South Africa. The study reveals strong mainstream urbanisation patterns occurring amongst the lower skilled and black South African subpopulations. Substream counterurbanisation processes are also occurring with smaller subpopulations, particularly highly skilled, employed and white South African subpopulations. The Industry and capital are becoming more widely distributed, indicating possible polarisation reversal patterns. Finally, the study indicates that the trajectories are similar and that in the long run, different subpopulations are moving towards a more evenly and less spatially fragmented urban landscape.


Differential urbanisation Migration South Africa Counterurbanisation Agglomeration Polarisation reversal 

JEL Classifications

R23 J11 



The authors are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments in the earlier versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Regional and Urban Innovation and Statistical Exploration, Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa

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