Shrinking Cities’ Depopulation Process and Spatial Pattern: A Transnational Comparison Between Yichun, Heilongjiang, China, and Youngstown Metropolitan Area, US

  • Shuqi GaoEmail author
Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


Although many urban scholars have reached a consensus that depopulation is the major benchmark by which to define shrinking cities, some scholars have proposed distinct standards for this benchmark, which has caused confusion for those seeking to conduct comparison studies. On the other hand, because of the differences in administrative division systems, cities in different nations have distinct relationships between geographic boundaries and jurisdictional boundaries, as well as varied relationships with their higher and lower level jurisdictions, which makes transnational comparison an arduous and problematic task in urban studies. This study aims to unveil the differences in depopulation processes and in the spatial patterns of depopulation between shrinking cities in China and those in the US. In contrast to the US, whose shrinking cities are well known to a broader audience due to American scholars’ predominance in the academic discussion of shrinking cities, China’s shrinking cities are poorly studied. To enrich the current literature on shrinking cities and provide foundations for a better understanding of Chinese shrinking cities, this study analyzes the historical depopulation processes and their manifestations at different spatial scales of two shrinking cities, one in China (the City of Yichun, Heilongjiang) and the other in the US (Youngstown Metropolitan Area, Ohio). The study reveals differences between the two cases in both their general depopulation processes and their municipalities’ depopulation patterns. Compared with the Youngstown Metropolitan Area, the City of Yichun exhibits a much shorter boom and bust cycle. On the municipality level, the City of Yichun’s high population density municipalities still maintain population stability, while most low-density municipalities have endured drastic population loss in the meantime. In contrast, after the whole region entered its depopulation era, most of Youngstown Metropolitan Area’s high population density municipalities lost population, while most of those low-density municipalities gained population.


Shrinking cities Depopulation Transnational comparison Chinese cities Rust belt 


Funding Information

This work was partially funded by a MIT MISTI funding: Shrinking Cities in the US and China: A Transnational Comparison.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ArchitectureSoutheast UniversityXuanwu District, NanjingChina

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