Rural population density effect on socio-economic characteristics: a review.

Author:Ismael, Ayoob Khaleel


A look at the various developing and developed nations worldwide will clearly show that some of the developed nations like Canada or Australia are placed at the extreme end in the list of the gross national population densities. In these countries having extremely low population rates large tracts of areas remain practically uninhabited, though observations reveal that their 'pre-urban' (urban fringes) population densities around the large urban centers are more or less similar to the other developed nations. This has led to a dense rural population in certain 'pockets' (around the metropolitan centers) within the country, presenting a host of problems, both theoretically and practically, for the rural policy makers and developers. Besides the infrastructural and developmental problems, observations also show that a spatially constrained antithetical urbanization movement has allowed the entry of certain 'exurban' elements within the sphere of some of the rural communities, thus making it necessary that one makes a review of the entire situation from a new perspective. A closer look at the available research study will reveal that though are some researches on the subject of urban population densities, with some study exploring the falling densities in rural areas, there is a serious lack of data on the effects of the rising or falling rural population densities on the socio-economic characteristics of the rural communities.

Existing study on rural population density: Rural population density is a very specific measurement of the population of a rural area-which includes regional open space, agriculture and water-bodies-excluding urban land-uses. And the term is used in rural planning to refer to the number of people inhabiting a given rural area. As such it is to be distinguished from other measures of population density, rural density is considered an important factor in understanding how settlements function. Study related to rural density occurs across diverse areas, including economics, health, innovation, psychology and geography as well as sustainability. Human population density (both urban and rural) serves as an important study tool, necessary to measure the balance between the total capacity of the physical environment necessary to support the perpetually rising global population, especially in the context of the developing or under developed nations. The studies on population density have primarily focused on the constantly increasing human population and subsequent impact of this increase on the physical environment and the resources available. The picture of an increasing population in developing nations, inserting compelling pressure on the country's natural resources, takes a different turn in majority of the developed industrialized nations. Here, researches show that the excessive low human population densities may show detrimental effects on the support system of social communities within the modern, industrialized, capitalist societies, creating barriers in the scale economy development, restraining the division of labor, while reflecting a heavy transportation charges upon the rural and 'sparseland' populations, that decrease their chances for social interactions (Theodoropoulou and Panagiotis, 2008). Though having a seemingly simple front, the term population density actually comprises of a complex concept, which is associated with a wide range of factors like the physical environment, humans, economy and technology, with each factor closely linked to the other. In his study delineated two major concepts within the term population density, which are: measured density (a quantifiable figure of the population units, that comprise of the individuals, families and the households, in per unit area); and perceived density (a qualitative dimension comprising of abstract concepts, like loneliness, privacy, isolation, contact potential and crowding).

Human population density has always been the chief centralizing theme within geographical studies, corelating the range and depth of the interrelationships that occur between society, individuals and the surrounding physical environment and the nature of their mutual influence. a majority of the density related research study has centered upon the factor of measured density (ratio of people per unit area) and have explored various aspects seeking resolutions for problems related to the services provided by the State, or for planning, within rural or urban settings. Holmes (1981) in his study conceptualized the notions of 'critical density thresholds' for specific kind of service centre oriented network, where he associates population density levels to the wider aspects of 'primary production,' and his study on Australian population density distinguished between the 'sparselands' and the 'settled areas'.

A closer look at this subject revealed that not much study has been done in this line owing to the complex nature of the term population density (Fonseca and Wong, 2000). It is not easy to distinguish between cause and effect, while explaining the various planes of human density and the type and depth of their relationships with different social aspects. The complex nature of population density also implicates the involvement of the socio-economic, environmental and historical factors that help to create a specific density spectrum and kind, like, linear, clustered, or randomly distributed, in respect to any type of rural community Argent et al. (2005).

The perceived density or the qualitative dimensions of population density are yet to be explored in details. only a few researchers have worked in this regards, as for example, Irving and Davidson 1972 defined social density (interpersonal relationships between members of a rural community) Tuan (1977) in his study emphasized that the feelings of crowding or loneliness were created owing to an individual's sense of socioeconomic opportunity within a particular environment. He opined that qualitative responses to the figurative human population density were adapted by two main factors, culture and the desire for a community member's self-accomplishment. Here Tuan gives an example of the Russian farmers residing in the Steppes. This landscape does not have much human habitation, except for few isolated farmhouses and such isolation tends to produce a feeling of fear and despair within the local rural inhabitants (Tuan, 1977). Therefore, the subjective aspects of crowding or isolation though not directly related to the physical environment can nevertheless have a significant influence. In her study recounts...

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