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Project information

Project team

Tim Leibert, Nadir Kinossian, Thilo Lang, Jeroen Royer, Alicia Marie Eggers


Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS), Newcastle University; University College London (UCL); Université de Strasbourg; Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD)

Duration of project

01/2021 – 12/2023

Funded by

German Research Foundation (ORA-Programme)

Further information

Dr Tim Leibert
Tel.: +49 341 600 55-188

Beyond "Left Behind Places"

Understanding demographic and socio-economic change in peripheral regions in France, Germany and the UK

Social and spatial inequalities between and within core and peripheral regions have reemerged as a major economic and political issue in developed economies. Such divisions have led to economic and social discontent and growing levels of political support for populist and nationalist parties in peripheral regions, particularly certain old industrial areas. This turmoil fuelled the Brexit vote in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in the US as well as support for the Rassemblement National (National Rally) and Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) in France and the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany. In response, researchers, commentators and politicians have voiced concerns about the places ‘left behind’ by globalisation, technological and economic change. While welcome in increasing the political visibility of social and spatial inequalities, the ‘left behind’ category risks hiding and oversimplifying the different experiences and development paths of people and places.

The aim of the project is to develop a new understanding of demographic and socio-economic change in peripheral regions, examining the circumstances and prospects of places and people currently categorised together as ‘left behind’. It will advance understandings of peripheralisation as an on-going process driven by the geographical concentration of people and prosperity in large urban centres alongside the decline or stagnation of other regions. The research will focus particularly on urban regions and intermediate areas close to cities experiencing demographic and socio-economic stagnation or decline.

Taking an approach that compares the experiences of France, Germany and the UK in their Western European context, the research has four objectives:

  • To understand the distinctive circumstances and development pathways of peripheral regions, overcoming the tendency to subsume different kinds of places beneath the broad category of ‘left behind’
  • To assess the relationships between the population dynamics of peripheral regions and socio-economic, health and political outcomes of people staying within and moving from peripheral regions to address the existing research bias towards migration between regions
  • To examine the livelihood activities and practices of residents in peripheral regions, remedying the neglect of how ‘ordinary’ people deal with peripherality
  • To identify new policy responses that combine conventional and alternative perspectives, moving beyond the reliance upon growing larger cities and spreading their prosperity to surrounding regions

Using a range of research methods and a cross-national research design, the research team will address these objectives by:

  • Identifying and categorising peripheral regions across Western Europe,
  • Investigating their different experiences using secondary qualitative data
  • Examining people’s everyday livelihood strategies through six neighbourhood case studies based on semi-structured interviews, non-participant observation, livelihood infrastructures mapping, and focus groups
  • Assessing current and informing future policy approaches to address the varied situations of peripheral regions through analysing secondary documentation and key actor interviews.