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Regional identity: a key to overcome structural weaknesses in peripheral rural regions?

Sedlacek, Sabine, Kurka, Bernhard, Maier, Gunther
European countryside 2009 v.1 no.4 pp. 180-201
business enterprises, development theory, employment, rural areas, schools, social change, surveys
Depopulation is a well-known phenomenon in peripheral rural regions. The most identified problems are based on structural weaknesses in terms of decreasing business activities and a lack of public infrastructure. In such regions population is mainly older causing major changes in social infrastructure. For instance many schools and kindergartens close down for lack of demand, which hinders young families to migrate to such regions. The result is typically a negative cumulative process of loss of population, loss of jobs, loss of infrastructure, further outmigration. It is an enormous challenge for such regions to overcome this vicious circle. Regional identity can be seen as an important factor to overcome such structural weaknesses. The paper will discuss the concept of regional identity in order to define the term and how it is embedded in regional development theory. The empirical analysis is presenting results focusing on regional identity coming out of a qualitative data analysis and a postal survey. We designed a regional identity index, which measures the intensity of personal and social relationships of both in-migrants and out-migrants.