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Losers of Modernization: Regional Decline, Selective Migration and the Extreme Right

Wendland, Nicolai
Vermeulen, Wouter
Year of Publication: 
Series/Report no.: 
53rd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regional Integration: Europe, the Mediterranean and the World Economy", 27-31 August 2013, Palermo, Italy
Mainstream sociological theory relates right-wing extremism to a situation in which losers of modernization emerge from a rapidly changing social and demographic environment as well as from structural economic change (the reinforcement of core-periphery patterns and the decline of manufacturing industries). Regional decline and its effects on those that stay behind have become increasingly relevant topics throughout the last decades, which have been characterized by economic transitions towards knowledge-based industries and on-going globalization. This paper investigates regional decline in Germany. Declining areas are far removed from urban centres or have an unfavourable industrial profile, so that they are disadvantaged by the transition towards a knowledge-based economy where agglomeration is of increasing importance. Using distance to major cities (tendencies of urbanization) and the presence of coalfields (declining manufacturing sector) as instruments, we find that lower-educated and older workers are overrepresented among those who stay behind. Furthermore, it turns out that working-age men are overrepresented, which may also be related to human capital differentials. We consider the share of votes to the right-wing extremist NPD. Again identifying on distance to major cities and the presence of coalfields, we indeed find that population decline significantly raises support for this party. We interpret this finding as an indicator of resentment and social tension. Our research thus offers a perspective on social implications of decline that differs from at least a simple version of the spatial equilibrium framework, in which location does not matter for wellbeing.
Political Economy
Extreme Right Voting
Regional Decline
Selective Migration
Document Type: 
Conference Paper

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