The mass wave of migration that reached Spain between 1998 and 2008 did not increase overall segregation in residential areas
Spain: a sudden migratory influx
Between the years 1998 and 2008, Spain’s population increased by 10% due to an unforeseen migratory movement, at that time the largest ever recorded by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Spain went from being far below the average figure for immigrant population as a percentage of the total census among countries of the OECD to amply surpass it. Between 1990 and 2010, this percentage increased from 2.1% to 13.8%, with the arrival of 5.5 million foreign nationals. In this same period, only the United States received more immigrants (19.6 million) in absolute numbers. Meanwhile the country occupying third place in volume of immigrant population hosted, Germany, received 4.8 million newcomers, 700,000 fewer than Spain. If the weight of immigration growth is considered in relation to the total population, then Spain occupies top position.
The accelerated change experienced by the census in Spain represented a unique opportunity to analyse how the arrival of foreign nationals affects the decisions of the native population regarding where to live. These behaviours can demonstrate whether or not a significant mixing of natives and immigrants resulted from the wave of migration or whether, to the contrary, ghettoes appeared.
1. One native leaves the centremost neighbourhoods for every three immigrants that settle in them
Of the foreign people that arrived in Spain during the great wave of migration, 72.7% took up residence in one of the 83 metropolitan areas of the country. This meant that, although in the year 2007 some 11.6% of the Spanish population was of immigrant origin, in the cities of the metropolitan areas, this percentage reached 33.1%. The new arrivals led to an increased proportion of immigrants in these areas, in comparison with the situation that foreseeably would have arisen if the new inhabitants had been uniformly distributed across the territory.
For every three immigrants that took up residence in the densest neighbourhoods of cities in metropolitan areas – usually the most central ones – one native left these neighbourhoods. In demographic terms, this would represent a minor displacement. Changes of address in the census between 2001 and 2008 of a total of 7 million metropolitan households reflects that the percentage of the immigrant population increased especially in the city centres.
In those areas where, to maintain the density of the initial native population, two new buildings would have been needed to house the expected growth of the immigrant population, only one was built. This is explained by the partial displacement of natives and, furthermore, by the fact that the households of immigrant families numbered more members.
Between 2001 and 2008, immigration grew in all the Spanish provinces, although it was especially concentrated in Madrid, the Canary Islands and, in general, along the entire Mediterranean coast. These areas, which together concentrate 53.3% of the native population, received 75% of the migration flow that reached Spain.
2. The distribution of the population in the periphery of the cities prevents segregation
The migration boom coincided in time with the expansion in construction that took place in Spain between the years 1997 and 2007. Newcomers to the peripheral areas of the cities numbered 500,000 natives (85.47%) and 85,000 immigrants (14.52%), figures practically proportional to the percentages of both population types across the whole of Spain. This distribution prevented the proliferation of new ghettos in the cities.
Urban lands that were uninhabited in 2001 went on to house, seven years later, the dwellings of 234,000 natives (83.87%) and 45,000 immigrants (16.12%), almost half of these in Madrid. Some 19% of the neighbourhoods grew by more than double in the period under study, with the influx of 1.5 million people, some 6% of the Spanish metropolitan population.
In metropolitan areas that grow rapidly, it is interesting to study the migratory phenomenon taking into account urban growth. Without evaluating this factor, research studies have traditionally overestimated the rate of change of residence among natives due to the arrival of immigrants and, therefore, their displacement and the formation of ghettos.
The two main Spanish metropolitan areas showed a similar behaviour in the evolution of the population’s distribution between 2001 and 2008. As reflected in the graphics, in Madrid and Barcelona alike, the Spanish-born population increased in absolute values in the peripheral areas, mostly new neighbourhoods created as a result of the property boom. In contrast, the number of natives in capital centres decreased. Immigration grew above average in the more central areas. The red colour on the maps reflects a higher-than-average immigrants growth threshold. However, it must be taken into account that a significant number of immigrants also took up residence in the outskirts, which neutralised the overall segregation.
3. Segregation remained stable during the mass arrival of immigrants
In 2008, some 48% of those surveyed by the Centre for Sociological Research (CIS) were of the opinion that immigration into Spain was excessive. However, this factor did not translate into a proliferation of ghettos as a result of the native population rejecting the possibility of having immigrants as neighbours.
The dissimilarity index, represented by the red line, measures the percentage of the immigrant population that would have to change residence in order to be distributed in the same way as natives, maintaining equal proportions in all neighbourhoods. In the year 2001, it stood at 45% and a downwards tendency was maintained until 2008, when it reached 43%. The lower this value is, the less the segregation.
The origin of the new inhabitants who arrived during the wave of migration was, above all, Latin America, with 46.5% of total arrivals, mainly from Ecuador, Colombia, and Argentina. Some 22.7% of the immigrant population originated from countries in Eastern Europe, mainly Romania, also of relative cultural proximity. This factor and the sharing of a language with the Latin American countries helped to prevent growth in segregation between natives and immigrants in the neighbourhoods.
The existence of state-subsidised private schools – which increased their number of pupils by 7% during the wave of migration – meant that some native families avoided sending their children to schools with high immigrant ratios without having to change homes. Also, Spain has an average residence change among families of 25 years, which contrasts, for example, with that of 9.5 years in the United States. The speed of the migratory flow also made it difficult for natives to be able to foresee the origins of the neighbours they would find in their chosen neighbourhood.
The accelerated change in the census of Spain between the years 1990 and 2010 represented a unique opportunity to analyse how the arrival of foreign nationals would affect decisions regarding where to live of the native population. These behaviours can demonstrate whether or not a significant mixing of natives and immigrants resulted from the wave of migration or whether, to the contrary, ghettos appeared. In this sense, based on the research conducted by the authors, evidence has been provided to show that the displacement of the native population, considered minor, was compensated because natives and immigrants alike went to live in the residential areas that emerged during the property boom.
FERNÁNDEZ-HUERTAS, J., A. FERRER I CARBONELL and SAIZ, A. (2019): «Immigrant locations and native residential preferences: Emerging ghettos or new communities?», Journal of Urban Economics, 112:135-151.
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