City-regional demographic composition and the fortunes of regional second cities

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This paper asks whether meaningful differentiations between small and medium-sized cities – “regional second cities” – can be constructed based on their demographic composition, and how these cities differ among each other and from core cities. We investigate 64 regional second cities in eight British city-regions, based on the demographic groups developed from the 2011 census and mapped by the BODMAS/Datashine project. First, we conduct a cluster analysis to extract demography-based city typologies. Second, we look for regularities within and contrasts between clusters to test whether these typologies are meaningful. Third, we compare population diversity and the representation of specific demographic groups in second cities and core cities. The results confirm that it is possible to meaningfully differentiate among cities based on demographic profile, reveal systematic differences between core and second cities across the UK, identify challenges in specific second city types and discuss their positionality and engagement in city-regional dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1541-1563
Number of pages23
JournalUrban Geography
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Demographic composition
  • city-regions
  • second-tier cities
  • small and medium-sized cities
  • population diversity


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