18 Social Demography, Space and Place

  • David L. BrownEmail author
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


Social demographers are pushing back from the totalizing norms of a-spatial theory. Population dynamics affect, and are affected by the attributes of geographic places at multiple spatial scales. Spatial analysis in demography has benefitted from methodological advances, and from new theoretical perspectives in which space as a simple container of social behavior has been replaced by relational thinking in which spatial units play a causal role in social and demographic processes. In this perspective, space is a relatively abstract term that lacks substantive meaning. In contrast, place and community are created when people organize space, give it meaning, and identify with it. As Jones and Woods (Reg Stud 47:29–42, 2014) have observed, places and communities have both material and imagined coherence. Their material coherence is comprised of social, economic and political structures while their imagined coherence is characterized by a sense of place, and emotional and behavioral attachments to place. Demographic behavior contributes to the production and reproduction of a place’s institutional structure, while demographic relationships spanning place boundaries contribute to economic, social and political interdependencies. Like other social boundaries in contemporary society, spatial boundaries have become increasingly permeable, and spaces of intense social, economic and political interpenetration. Accordingly, the utility of spatial binaries such as urban vs rural is called into question.


Spatial demography Space Place Community Relational theory Social boundary Material coherence Imagined coherence Permeable boundary 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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