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Amenity Migration: diverse conceptualizations of drivers, socioeconomic dimensions, and emerging challenges (Gosnell & Abrams)

by on November 12, 2011

In the Gosnell and Abrams article titled “Amenity migration: diverse conceptualizations of drivers, socioeconomic dimensions, and emerging challenges,” the authors focus on the phenomena of ‘deurbanization,’ or moving from urban areas to rural areas, and the driving factors of this movement as well as the impacts migrants have on existing rural populations. Because there is not much work done on this subject, the article acts as a jumping off point; it summarizes various driving factors of amenity migration, as well as emerging challenges. The authors ask a number of questions, most of which do not have concrete answers, in order to start a dialogue between various scholars that are studying this same concept.

To start off their research, the authors give some background to the term “amenity migration.” They define it as “a phenomenon of increasing interest to rural geographers and other social scientists due to the ways in which, in concert with other social, economic and political processes, it is contributing to the fundamental transformation of rural communities in more developed regions throughout the world.” (1) This transformation of rural communities is referred to as “rural restructuring,” or, the changing land use, economics, and social arrangements resulting from amenity migration. Amenity migration is the driving force behind this transformation of rural environments. The authors delve further into what exactly is amenity migration by referring to its various other names. Depending on the scholar studying this phenomenon, or the area where it is taking place, its name changes. This makes it difficult to have a rich dialogue when scholars are referring to the same idea as a number of different names.

Amenity migration, or “aspirational migration” is often linked with processes of “counterunbanization,” where people are moving from heavily urbanized environments to the ‘new countryside’ (3). The purpose of this paper is to ask why this is happening. Why would people want to move to the ‘global countryside?’ They begin by determining some of the main driving, or “pull factors” that are leading people out of the urban and into the rural. From what I gathered by reading this article was that there are countless reasons why people are moving, based on geographical location, economics, social classes, and the personal motives of the migrants. Related to our class presentations and reading on the American West, the authors discuss factors that drove people to come west, from the urban to the rural and how these mass movements of people ended up changing the rural-ness of the west. Many of the factors were ones addressed by our class presentations, people looking for opportunity, fortune, land, freedom, etc., but what we did not discuss was how the migrants themselves changed the west. Later in the article, the authors discuss the “culture clash” phenomenon in rural communities. This is when “old-time” social organization (people who have lived in the area for a while) is altered when “newcomers” alter the dynamics of the community through new values and expectations as well as economic and social factors. In turn, the rural community is changed.

The authors conclude their article with the idea that amenity migration, as a concept, is the result of multiple migration phenomena (various “pull factors”), globalization, and uneven development. And, that amenity migration is the cause of significant changes in the dynamics of rural places worldwide, not just in the US, which relates to our reading on the influence of globalization. I feel that this article does a good job of connecting the different names of amenity migration so that it is easier to see the similarities between the different field studies. The authors themselves say that this paper is “certainly incomplete,” but I do agree that this paper is doing its job of expanding this growing field of study. For the most part I could relate the authors finding with my own personal observations living in both urban and rural environments.  Primarily the fact that when so many “newcomers” migrate to a smaller, older community, the dynamic of the town completely changes, and not necessarily for the better. It becomes more urbanized as people from the urban world seek refuge in the rural, changing the perceptions of both the “newcomers” and the “old-timers” of the term “rural.” However, with growing populations worldwide, it is difficult to not have changes like these in smaller communities. Some questions that were brought to my attention while reading were:

How is amenity migration related to exurbanization? In other words, why do people have the urge to leave the urban environment and seek out more rural places?

In your life experiences, have you witnessed this phenomenon of people moving from the urban to the rural? How did it change the rural environment?

Will this be a growing trend for the future? Or will it be an even flow from urban to rural and vice versa?




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  1. janellekramer permalink

    To answer the first question, a lot of people who move out of urban areas to more rural ones do so for many reasons. Rural areas, like mountain towns or farming areas, are attractive to movers because the areas are quieter, more personal than a lot of urban areas. Some people commit to half exurbanization, where they have a house in a rural area but live in urban areas, and they can travel to the rural areas on the weekends. My family is an example of these types of people. We have a mountain home, as do many people in Colorado, and it is very nice to be able to live in or near a city but to have access to a more quieter, quainter area. Some believe that urban areas are too developed and fast-paced, so being able to get away from that can be priceless.

  2. amygraceaustin permalink

    In response to question 2, yes I have personal experience with the phenomenon of people moving from urban to rural and it actually came up in my 5th field paper where I conducted a lengthy interview with my dad. While my family did not move to a remotely rural area, my family did decide to build a home on the outskirts of our town in an environment that contained a more rural feel. My dad has always wanted to have space around him and so we moved to a property on the edge of town that backs up to an eagle nesting reserve. I think this trend is becoming more and more popular as people get tired of suburban life and want to be able to stretch their arms and have privacy from neighbors. In response to how it changes the rural environment, it definitely creates disturbances to wildlife that hadn’t previously existed.

    I think that urban-rural or “reverse migration” will continue to increase and I think this will benefit rural areas by bringing more to their economies. Two of my roommates grew up in very rural parts of Colorado and faced numerous challenges that came along with small, rural school districts. I think increased migration to rural areas can bring opportunities for socially-conscious development and economic benefits to the state.

  3. Benjamin N. permalink

    In my experience, I haven’t necessarily seen people moving from the urban to the rural. However, I have seen many instances of the rural being converted to suburban, and people moving out there. It clearly changed the rural environment, because the rural environment was completely destroyed. Plant and animal life were completely uprooted for the construction of suburban housing. I think this will continue to be a trend in the future. As long as there is a growing population and open space to exploit, people will take advantage of it.

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