Research on Mid-size Cities and Migration

Asya Pisarevskaya, Assistant Professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam, and Marthe Hesselmans, Senior Researcher and policy advisor at the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) are on a quest to understand migration realities in mid-size cities in the Netherlands. How can municipalities such as Sittard-Geleen, Tiel, and Velsen govern the coming and going of newcomers in a way that does not weaken but rather strengthens their cities?

LINK: Short-essay about the first findings (in Dutch)

Asya Pisarevskaya in Velsen
Dr Asya Pisarevskaya in Velsen

What do these mid-size cities have in common and why to study them? Our research focuses on Dutch cities with a population of 40,000 to 100,000. Migration is a reality in these mid-size municipalities just as it is in big cities like Amsterdam or Rotterdam. The share of first-generation migration is often above the Dutch average and appears to be increasing in recent years. We especially notice an increase of labour migration from EU countries in many cities whereas others rather see family or refugee migration or a combination of all three.

In our research we also notice something else happening in certain mid-size cities: an accumulation of vulnerabilities over time which often precedes recent migration to these cities. They tend to house relatively many residents (both with and without a migration background) who are older, have low incomes, or lack the necessary qualifications for the job market compared with other cities. Meanwhile the local economy is often under pressure as young talent leaves for bigger cities and businesses have a hard time finding staff.

Migration has the potential to rejuvenate struggling mid-size cities, bringing new life and opportunities for development. So, it is important to understand - what is happening there. What are mid-sized cities currently doing to manage the settlement of newcomers in their municipalities? What challenges do they face and where do the opportunities lie? These are the questions posed in the research on Mid-sized Cities and Migration.

Cruise ship with asylum seekers in Velsen
Cruise ship with asylum seekers in Velsen


Our research focuses on local policies - how do municipalities attempt to manage the settlement of newcomers effectively? What is working well and what can be improved? We look at policies and programmes for people who were born in another country (either within or outside of Europe) and came to the Netherlands for work, asylum, or family reunification. Local policies specifically aimed at newcomers as well as policies for all residents, such as those related to housing, employment, language, and health are studied. The research combines data and policy analysis with site visits in the cities and interviews with policymakers, local administrators, and civil society organizations. The outcomes of the research aim to contribute to policy advice and recommendations, as well as scientific understanding of migration realities and governance thereof beyond global cities.

The research is conducted within the Department of Public Administration and Sociology at Erasmus University Rotterdam and is building on studies by the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR):

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More information
Short-essay about the first findings (in Dutch)