What makes people stay in or leave shrinking cities? An empirical study from Portugal

Maria Helena Guimarães, Luis Catela Nunes, Ana Paula Barreira, Thomas Panagopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The attractiveness of cities as places to live determines population movements into or out of them. Understanding the appealing features is fundamental to local governments, particularly for cities facing population decline. Pull and push attributes can include economic aspects, the availability of amenities and psychological constructs, initiating a discussion around which factors are more relevant for migration. However, such discussion has been underexplored in studies of shrinking cities. In the present study, we contribute to the discussion by identifying pull and push factors in Portuguese shrinking cities. Data were collected using a face-to-face questionnaire of 701 residents in four shrinking cities: Oporto, Barreiro, Peso da Régua and Moura. Factor analysis and automatic linear modelling were used to analyse the data. Our results show that the economic activity is the most relevant feature for retaining residents. However, characteristics specific to each city, related to heritage and natural beauty, are also shown to influence a city’s attractiveness. The cause of population shrinkage was also found to influence residents’ assessments of the pull and push attributes of each city. Furthermore, the results show the relevance of social ties and of place attachment to inhabitants’ intention to continue living in their city of residence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1684-1708
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Planning Studies
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • policy and planning strategies
  • Portugal
  • pull and push factors
  • residents’ preferences
  • Shrinking cities


Dive into the research topics of 'What makes people stay in or leave shrinking cities? An empirical study from Portugal'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this