Topic: (Im)mobilities, diversity and rural change : new patterns of immigrant settlement in rural France
Keywords: immigration, diversity, rural, settlement patterns, residential mobility
Since the early 1990s, researchers have described the increase of immigrant population in France as the result of permanent settlement combined with new arrivals (as well as remigration). No fundamental change in the spatial distribution of immigrants in France related to this increase was documented. Most scientific research emphasizes the ever-increasing concentration of immigrants in major cities and “banlieues”, and rural areas usually remain unnoticed. Yet, the geography of immigration in non-metropolitan France has undergone significant change since the end of labor immigration in the mid-1970s, but also since the 1990s with the evolution of national and international labor markets (globalization of the countryside) as well as the development of new social representations associated with rural areas (counter-urbanisation, rural idyll). New patterns of immigrant settlement have emerged: some localities have become new places of immigrant settlement, especially in the South-West of France or in suburban areas, while immigrants have left other localities, as in the Northeast industrialized regions of France. The study of mobility/immobility of immigrants is thus a relevant indicator of rural change in a globalized world, as well as an invitation to question rural diversity and its social and spatial differentiating factors.
This paper aims at exploring (im)mobility processes of immigrants and non-immigrants that led to a change in the spatial distribution of immigrants over the last 25 years, focusing on non-metropolitan areas. Using census data from 1990 to 2015, I analyze the evolution of immigrants’ patterns of concentration and dispersal in rural France. I test three main hypotheses – proportional change, concentration and dispersal – linked to demographic, economic and social explanations, using spatial analysis and cartography tools. Through my results, I highlight the link between demographic evolution of non-immigrant population and of immigrant population, which can lead to relative concentration or dispersal of immigrants (the concentration of immigrants in new rural areas can be due to recent arrivals of immigrants but also to the depopulation of non-immigrants). Results also point out the increased diversity of rural places that have recently experienced a process of concentration of immigrants.