Demographic change and sustainable communities : the role of local factors In explaining population change
Ferguson, Mark A.
Population retention and growth is a concern for cities, towns, and rural municipalities across Canada, and population change is one of the best available indicators of economic prosperity and community success. As such, it is important to understand the factors driving the location decisions of Canadians, and to use this information to help communities develop strategies to ensure their longevity and to comprehend the various features influencing future prosperity. The results of this study clearly show that local community characteristics do indeed influence local population growth. Important factors include economic indicators, the presence of different types of amenities, and the proximity of the community to urban areas. Previous research has been completed on the topic of community population change and amenities in other countries, but Canada has not been examined until now. This study utilizes census data at the municipality level to examine these issues. The analysis consists of an econometric model with population change as the dependent variable, and a number of local factors as the explanatory variables. In general, the results of this study complied with theoretical predictions. Communities with favourable amenities and economic factors were found to have higher population growth. Also, different age groups were found to value different bundles of amenities and economic opportunities. Amenities were found to be important factors affecting population growth. Communities with higher average housing prices and lower average incomes had higher population growth. Although this is seemingly a contradictory result, it implies that amenities have been capitalized into incomes and housing prices over time and thus more than income appears to be determining the pattern of housing values across Canada; an outcome predicted by the theoretical framework of the study. Medical amenities were found to be more important for older segments of the population, though all ages valued being near large acute care hospitals. Communities with high rates of violent crime tended to have lower population growth rates. Natural amenities such as mountains and pleasant weather, and the presence of water did not consistently result in higher community population growth. Economic factors such as industry diversification, high local employment rates, and growing employment prospects were very important in influencing population growth, especially among younger segments of the population. However, economic and financial opportunities do not appear to affect migration decisions of the elderly, who are influenced more by medical amenities. Except for youth, local employment opportunities were not as important as having opportunities in surrounding communities. The presence of agriculture and resource extraction sectors tended to result in lower population growth. Finally, proximity to larger urban centres and population size appeared to be beneficial for communities. Overall, the results of this study provide insight for community leaders, policy makers, and others interested in the dynamics of community population change, and will help governments efficiently allocate resources to communities and form strategies to deal with declining community populations.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
CommitteeOlfert, M. Rose; Bollman, Ray
Copyright DateSeptember 2005