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WPS No.51 | Van der Star, M. & Hochstenbach, C. (2021) | Levels, predictors and meanings of place attachment among Norwegian and Dutch stayers in rural shrinking regions

In this working paper, Marieke van der Star and Cody Hochstenbach explore place attachment among rural stayers in two shrinking regions in Norway and the Netherlands. Their study reveals high levels of place attachment and stayers construct images of living in a rural idyll where a sense of normalcy, familiarity and natural quality is maintained.

In many countries, social and economic disparities between regions appear to be on the rise, with the increasing demand for urban living mirrored by the decline of more peripheral regions. Increasingly often, this concerns shrinking rural regions. This paper focuses on residents’ place attachment in two such regions: Sogn og Fjordane in Norway and Noord Friesland in the Netherlands.

We study levels, predictors and meanings of place attachment by drawing on both quantitative survey data and qualitative in-depth interviews. Our findings reveal generally high levels of place attachment in both regions, likely reflecting stability among rural stayers. Women, the employed, long-term residents and those speaking the local language report significantly higher levels of attachment in both regions. Our qualitative material underscores that individual biographies are actively shaped by the social, cultural and physical dimensions of place. Respondents construct images of living in a rural idyll where a sense of normalcy, familiarity and natural quality is maintained. We argue these findings help understand why residents stay put in the face of regional decline.