Why are cities better than villages?

City or country - where is it better to live?

Real estate prices in Germany are rising and rising - the corona crisis does not affect that either. Especially in the big cities, very many people can no longer afford to live and are fleeing the city. And so - several studies suggest that more and more city dwellers are interested in life in the country. Or at least for the metropolitan area.

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In this article on urban exodus and suburbanization, we address some key questions:

  • Does Corona mean the final end of the seemingly never-ending influx of people into the big cities?
  • How has the relationship between urban and rural populations changed in Germany?
  • City or country - where is it better to live?

The vast majority of Germans live in the city

In the past few decades the urban population has continued to increase and the rural population has continued to decrease. In 2019, more than 77 percent of people in Germany lived in cities. The rural population makes up the much smaller remainder. With regional differences, here are a few examples:

  • In 2018, 88 percent of the population in the Berlin / Brandenburg region lived in cities.
  • In Hesse it was "only" 65 percent in 1871, in 2018 it was 83 percent.
  • In Saxony it was 78 percent. There, too, more and more people left the country after the division of Germany - and moved to the cities.

The general consequences: the cities overflow, rents are expensive, real estate prices rise and rise.

But what does "rural population" actually mean?

The term "rural population" encompasses those people who live in rural areas. It is not so easy to say what rural areas are. Because that changes all the time. Because so much has changed in the employment structure and mobility in recent years, scientists can no longer properly delimit town and country. Because: Villages are also becoming more and more urban. Rural areas are also becoming increasingly urbanized. As a result, researchers today are more likely to use population density figures.

According to a study by the Ifo Institute, there is a sustained trend in favor of urban areas in Germany. In 2018, the proportion of the rural population had reached its lowest level since 1871.

And who is this "city population"?

The proportion of the city's population has reached a new record, write the scientists. The trend can be felt in both East and West Germany. It can be observed in rapidly growing regions such as Hesse as well as in shrinking regions such as Saxony or stagnant regions such as Berlin / Brandenburg.

"Urban population" is understood to mean the entirety of the people who live in cities or urban settlements. Here, too, a differentiation is sometimes difficult. Because for a "city" or "urban settlement" not only the number of inhabitants but also the infrastructural requirements are decisive.

Urban exodus versus rural exodus: historical development

Urbanization is not a new phenomenon. Rather, the rural population in Germany has been declining since the middle of the 19th century, as stated in the study by the Ifo Institute.

The trend towards the city began with industrialization in the 19th century. There was a slump in the trend at the time of the Second World War, when hunger and destruction drove people to flee the city. But urbanization continued again during the GDR era.

A new trend then set in in the 1990s: suburbanization. This development, caused by urban exodus, can be observed in highly industrialized countries.

Suburbanization: The Rise of the Outskirts

"Suburbanization" is understood to mean the migration of the urban population, but also of industry or services to the outskirts of the cities. The term comes from the English word "suburban", which means something like the outskirts or suburbs.

Suburbanization can lead to many problems, such as increasing traffic loads due to more and more commuter traffic, but also to the loss of the core city.

The reason for the emergence of the trend in the 1990s is easy to explain: there was little space in the cities and a lot in the suburbs. Since the turn of the millennium began to show more building sites in cities, the trend turned around again around 20 years ago.

The return of suburbanization

But: Suburbanization is coming back. And not just since the beginning of the corona pandemic. But above all because of the skyrocketing prices in the cities. In 2019, for example, prices in the suburbs of the metropolises rose. That means: the surrounding area is becoming more popular, demand is increasing - and with it the prices.

There were also sharp price increases in rural regions in 2019. Because there the offer is very low. Even with a slight increase in demand, this leads to a sharp rise in property prices.

And now, due to the corona pandemic, the trend towards urban evacuation could intensify. Because numerous studies show that people yearn for rural life, especially during the pandemic. According to a survey carried out by McMakler, almost half of the brokers surveyed found an increased interest in rural real estate during the crisis.

No wonder, because many advantages of cities disappear during a pandemic: restaurants and bars, visits to the theater, shopping tours, concerts - there are none. And in the country you can usually go for a walk in more beautiful surroundings.

City or country - where do Germans want to live?

According to a survey conducted by the Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (GfK) on behalf of the project developer Bauwerk at the end of November 2020, 41 percent of city residents can basically imagine moving to the countryside. 21 percent stated that they could "quite safely" imagine the move, a further 20 percent "probably".

And even before the corona pandemic, Germany felt a great desire for land. A representative survey by Kantar determined where Germans would most like to live:

  • 34 percent in a village
  • 27 percent in a small town / in the country
  • 26 percent on the outskirts
  • 13 percent in a city

Urban escape: families are drawn to the countryside, singles to the city

According to the GfK survey, families in particular want to flee the city. Almost half (49.9 percent) of the surveyed families with one child can imagine life in the country. In addition, the love for the countryside is most pronounced among the 30 to 39 year olds (47.3 percent) and among the "trend-loving" group (48.3 percent).

Even before the pandemic, families were particularly drawn from the cities, as the ZDF 2019 Germany study shows. The reason: In big cities, families can afford life less and less because a large part of their income is spent on rent.

The Institute of the German Economy (IW), on the other hand, found in a study that 63 of the 71 major German cities grew in 2017. The population in Berlin increased by 1.4 percent between 2011 and 2017. Those of Hamburg and Munich grew by 1.1 percent. According to the IW researchers, singles and immigrants from abroad in particular are drawn to the cities.

But you also observe that families in Germany are increasingly moving from the big cities to the countryside. According to the study, it is not new that families are moving from the big cities to the countryside because of high rents. Also because, according to a representative ZDF survey, 78 percent of Germans are of the opinion that children grow up better in the country than in the city.

What do people expect from rural life?

According to the IW study, daycare centers and schools in particular play a role in the decision to move. In addition, when families leave the city they want to be surrounded by nature. Individual preferences such as the parents' hobbies or local cultural activities are also taken into account when deciding on a new place of residence.

The cities that are becoming ever narrower and more overcrowded, the open spaces that rural areas offer, as well as the new forms of digital work favor urban exodus, according to the Think-Tank Berlin Institute. In a study from 2019, this examined what conditions young city dwellers would like to dare to step out of urban space.

Her thesis: "Country life is moving into the focus of an urban milieu." According to the researchers, the urban exodus of the big city dwellers mainly finds its goal in the outskirts of the metropolises.

The country life is mainly interesting for families over the age of 30, for whom the city is too tight for their budget. Among the new rural residents are not only people in knowledge and creative professions who can work regardless of location, such as programmers, journalists, graphic designers and cultural scientists. Teachers, social pedagogues, doctors and craftsmen are also drawn from the city, according to the study.

The researchers see a high-performance internet connection as a mandatory requirement for city dwellers to settle in a rural community. "Where a high-performance underground cable is not available, the villages will have no chance of competing for residents with the cities."

Benefits of country life

Are you considering turning your back on the big city and moving to the countryside? There are many benefits to living in the country, here are the seven most important.

1. Real estate and rents are cheaper

Real estate prices and rents are particularly high in major German cities. According to the study "Living in Germany 2020" by Sparda-Bank, real estate in the seven largest metropolises - Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf - is 55 percent more expensive than in the surrounding area.

The average square meter price in Munich is 7,220 euros, while the German average is only 2,394 euros. In the Kyffhäuserkreis in northern Thuringia you can get one square meter of living space for 877 euros.

The situation is similar for rents. While the German average is 7.12 euros per square meter, all seven A cities land above it. At 16.28 euros per square meter on average, it is the most expensive in Munich.

But: a city is not a city and a country is not just a country. In the metropolitan area in particular, prices rose more sharply between 2009 and 2020 than in the metropolises themselves.

2. There is more living space in the country

The average living space is greatest in rural areas. According to the Sparda study, 42 percent of the properties advertised in high-density rural areas offer more than 120 square meters of living space. In urban areas, on the other hand, the average apartment size for owner-occupied properties is only 86 square meters. Large freehold properties with an area of ​​120 square meters or more are rare here, accounting for 27 percent of the advertisements. In core cities the proportion is at least 34 percent.

3. Home office opportunities are increasing

The fact that technical possibilities mean that more and more jobs can also be done from home speaks in favor of urban evacuation. Many people who dare to move to the country can therefore do without the annoying commute and set up a workplace in the country in their own home.

The corona pandemic has also increased the acceptance of home offices. But: It is questionable whether it will stay that way. According to an IW study, working from home is only a temporary solution if the company has its way. Two thirds do not want to give their employees more opportunities to work at home after the end of the pandemic than before.

4. People in rural areas are less likely to suffer from mental illness

Several studies show that people who live in large cities are at higher risk of developing mental illness. The risk of depression and the like is around 40 percent higher for city dwellers than for people who live in rural areas. This was the result of an analysis from 2010 of a total of 20 population studies from industrialized countries.

Scientists at the University of Dresden were also able to confirm this observation in Germany. According to this, 13.9 percent of the survey participants who live in cities with more than half a million inhabitants suffered from depression or bipolar disorder. Among the participants who live in places with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, the proportion was only 7.8 percent. According to the researchers, the risk of schizophrenia in cities is almost twice as high as in rural areas.

The cause has not been conclusively clarified. It is possible that people with mental illnesses are more likely to move to cities. However, the stress level in the city also seems to be partly responsible for this development.

5. Country life is healthier

Many studies have shown that rural life is healthy. According to a study by the Robert Koch Institute, city dwellers are more likely to suffer from asthma, hay fever, neurodermatitis or food allergies. The proportion of people affected by these diseases increases slightly with the size of the place of residence.

According to the scientists, the cause is either a certain hardening due to microbes with which people come into contact in the first few years of life. Or the air pollution, which is greater in cities due to the higher volume of traffic.

In cities, a high proportion of buildings and a low proportion of green spaces and trees, waste heat from industry and traffic can create an unhealthy climate. Because the buildings with often narrow street canyons often prevent air circulation, the temperature differences between town and country can be as much as ten degrees in summer. A good argument for fleeing the city - especially with increasing heat waves in Germany.

6. It is statistically safer to live in the country

Far fewer people in the village feel unsafe when they are out and about at night. No wonder, because statistics show that the crime rate increases with the size of the community. The ratio between rural regions and metropolitan regions is around one to three when it comes to criminal offenses.

Juvenile delinquency is also much more pronounced in large cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants. Violent crime there was 3.5 times higher in 2005, robbery offenses were even 8.5 times higher than in communities with 20,000 inhabitants.

7. Urban exodus as an opportunity for rural communities

Most city dwellers have higher demands on their new living environment than it is just a pure living and working space in the countryside. Therefore, according to a study by the Berlin Institute, they are looking for new ways to find culture or environmentally friendly mobility alternatives to their own car. For example, farm shops, cafés, galleries and car sharing would be created. This brings an improvement in the living conditions for everyone in the village.

Benefits of living in the city

City life also has many advantages.

1. Infrastructure: You can also do without a car

The infrastructure clearly speaks for cities. There is a well-developed network of public transport there. Owning a car is not absolutely necessary. It looks different in the country. Many municipalities are neither connected to the Deutsche Bahn network, nor do they have a well-developed bus system. Having your own car is becoming a must.

For example, in 14 percent of the sparsely populated communities in Lower Saxony and Brandenburg, only one to four public transport connections to the nearest center are available. As a result, 70 percent of the journeys are made in rural areas by car, only five percent by public transport.

2. Shopping and doctors - lots of offers

In times of the Corona, people in the city hardly have any advantages from the wide range of shopping opportunities in cities. But grocery stores are also becoming fewer and fewer in rural areas. And the offer more and more one-sided.

Here, too, the following applies: shopping is often difficult without your own car. According to the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, almost every twelfth grocery store in Bavaria disappeared in smaller municipalities between 2004 and 2014. More and more people therefore have to take longer trips - usually by car - to shop for their daily needs.

Many communities have a similar problem with doctors. Often - especially when it comes to a visit to the specialist - a long journey has to be made.

3. Great variety of cultural and leisure activities

The number of cultural and leisure activities is also much greater in cities than in rural areas. Opera, theater, cinema, concerts, bars, restaurants - the offers are much lower in rural areas - and not just in high culture.

Institutions where people spend time together should not be underestimated. A study by the Bertelsmann Foundation confirms: the larger the community, the greater the range. In big cities there is not only a mass of offers, but also a variety.

4thGood, wide range of educational opportunities for children

At first glance, country life seems perfect for children. The little ones grow up close to nature, can play in the country and are safer than in the big city. But: The childcare on offer, especially for children under three, is still far worse in rural areas than in cities.

When it comes to schools, the city is also much more diverse. Many smaller communities do not have secondary schools. So it's not just parents who have to commute to their jobs. Even the children have to take long journeys to school.

And: If you want to move from a city-state like Hamburg, Berlin or Bremen to its immediate vicinity, you also live in another federal state. The other school system often brings problems. Hamburg, Berlin and Bremen families should be aware of this challenge before fleeing the city.

5. Less commuting means less stress

Sure, there are more jobs in the city than in the country. And those who live in a big city have a better chance of not having to leave their own community to commute - as around 60 percent of employees in Germany do. In 2018, as many as 12.6 million people in Germany had to leave the city or district in which they live in order to work. The number of commuters continues to grow. In 2018 there were already 19.3 million in Germany.

And their ways keep getting wider. In 2018 the average commuter distance was 16.9 kilometers, in 2000 it was 14.8 kilometers. Numerous studies confirm that commuting is harmful to health. Commuting leads to stress, shortened sleep times due to longer commutes, sleep disorders and increased infection with infectious diseases.

6. Life in the city is more sociable - and more open

According to a survey by the newspaper "Die Zeit" in 2017, people in cities meet their friends more often than people in rural areas. 48 percent of people living in large cities said they socialized with friends, relatives or neighbors on a weekly basis. In the village it is only 40 percent.

People in cities are also more open to other cultures. Not only have a larger proportion (33 percent to 14 percent) lived abroad for at least three months. City dwellers also have more foreigners in their circle of acquaintances, are far more open towards a Muslim mayor, for example, and they accept Turkish family members more.

The city has also made progress in terms of gender equality: more women work full-time in cities than in rural areas.

Conclusion on city or country

Whether life in the country is really better, as it is often said, cannot be answered across the board. As is so often the case in life, it is a question of type.

For many, life on the outskirts appears to be the ideal compromise that combines the conveniences of urban and rural life. But that is precisely why the demand for real estate around the most livable cities in Germany is great - which in turn has a direct impact on prices. It is not for nothing that people often speak of the "bacon belt".

Anyone looking for a location should not be under the illusion that they can easily find a real estate bargain somewhere. When in doubt, local people and realtors know very well what a property, house or apartment is worth. Tip: Use our free property valuation, so you can get a good impression in just five minutes.