Germany’s Population Growth and Decline

Some time ago I have published an analysis of the changing demographies of Germany on this website (see also the map at the end of this post). I used the data from this analysis to develop some further cartogram visualisations that put the increase and decline into the focus, showing how heterogeneous these trends are evolving spatially in Germany. The following maps show gridded cartogram transformations of population change in Germany in which each grid cell (representing an equal physical space) is resized according to the total estimated population increase (right map) or decline (left map) in the period of 1990 to 2010. They show, how population patterns chances in the first two decades after reunification:

Cartograms of population changes in Germany between 1990 and 2010
(click for larger map)

Labelling places in these two maps is a challenge. In the map of decline (left), the places being largest in the map are more obvious to name, as many of them are the larger cities and regions in Germany. In the growth map (right), however, many of the places showing up as growing are often smaller, less known, towns, often situated in the suburban fringes of cities such as Munich (Freising labeled in this map), Berlin (with growing suburban fringes in the state of Brandenburg being clearly visible in the map) or Ludwigsburg (as one growing neighbour north of Stuttgart). The patterns that appear in the growth cartogram show many of the large cities disappearing as nodes around wich the growing suburbia expands. The conventional thumbnail map in the middle (top) leads as a guide to highlighting these areas that result in the two cartograms: The cartogram of decline (left) shows all areas being in the different shades of blue (and to less extent some of the yellow areas of stagnation) while the growth is shown in the shades of red and emerges in the cartogram of increase (right).
The cartograms visualise the magnitude and extent of the quantities that lie within these proportions – they show the real extent of growth and decline in it cannot be conveyed in a conventional map, though reading these cartograms needs to be trained (but gets easier the more one gets used to such maps). The colour scheme for the two main maps shows the different federal states of Germany and helps to quickly compare how they are affected by the population changes in these maps. The following reference map helps to know which colour refers to which of the states if you are not familiar with the political geography of Germany:

Map of the Federal States of Germany
(click for larger map)

Population developments are often of a very dynamic nature. The initial impact of reunification and resulting changes in the dynamics how population changes were strongly following patterns of suburbanisation all across Germany (with one result being shrinking city centres) and a general trend of depopulation in large parts of the East dominated the spatial patterns of population changes shown in the above maps. The new century, however, brought in new changes, most significantly the enlargement of the European Union eastwards starting in 2004. This changed the population dynamics considerably, relativising the initial trends triggered by German reunification in 1990. The following map takes these trends already into consideration, looking at the estimated changes between 1990 and 2015 (hence taking another five years of changes into account):

Gridded Population Cartogram / Map of Population Changes in Germany between 1990 and 2015
(click for larger and more detailed version)

The most important differences are that cities such as Berlin and Munich are no longer shrinking cities here, and a general trend of reurbanisation seems to have started in many cities with the turn of the century. If one would look solely at more recent trends (not taking 1990 as the year to which the change is compared to), the fact that Germany has become a country in (population-)decline holds less true than it appears. Germany’s population is still shrinking, and without in-migration it would do so at a much faster pace than it does, but the spatial reality is that Germany becomes an ever more complicated patchwork of regions shrinking and growing in population with considerable implications (and challenges) for regional planning and development.
More about the interpretation of this map and more context can also be found here on this website.

These maps have also been published in the following German-language article of arcACTUELL magazine:

  • Hennig, B. D. (2013). Ansichtssache: Neue Bilder des menschlichen Raums. arcAKTUELL 2013 (3): 12-13.
    arcAKTUELL online (ESRI)
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