From Diversity to Division (and Back): Unravelling Two Decades of Population Change in Belgian Cities

Lena Imeraj , Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Ethnic diversity and segregation are salient characteristics of urban areas, shaped by historical and contemporary international migration. The youthfulness of international migrants directly impacts population size and age structure, whereas family formation among (recent) migrants indirectly contributes to population dynamics by enhancing natural population growth. As urban populations progressively diversify in terms of origin and migrant generation, more cities are undergoing a transition towards becoming majority-minority cities. This transformation sparks contentious debates about its impact on ethnic residential segregation and integration, illustrating how urban centres (still) grapple with complex demographic diversification. While various theoretical perspectives address the relationships between immigration, diversity, and spatial fragmentation in cities, empirical investigations that explore intricate interplays between diversity and segregation over time and across geographical contexts remain relatively scarce. This research leverages geocoded administrative census data to chart the coevolution of ethnic diversity and segregation in large and small(er) regional cities across two decades (2000-2020) in Belgium. Using the Fractional index, Theil’s Entropy index, and Moran’s I, trajectories of ethnic diversity and division in space are identified, visualised in dynamic maps, and scrutinised through spatial analysis. Preliminary findings indicate that as ethnic diversity increases, ethnic desegregation follows suit. These patterns exhibit significant disparities among different ethnic groups and within various urban settings. To deepen our understanding of these variations, we delve into a selection of urban cases, dissecting the associations between local demographic dynamics, contrasting the intricacies of (co-)varying levels and patterns of diversity and segregation, and contextualising these findings within historical regional contexts.

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 Presented in Session 72. Spatial Segregation and Migrant Populations