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Demography and Urban Form: Understanding Latent Dynamics of Population Density in Italy

Gianluigi Salvucci, Ilaria Zambon, Luca Salvati


Population density is a key variable assessing the relationship between a given area and its population. By partitioning any study area into small units (e.g. administrative regions, municipalities, functional districts), population density is a simple indicator that can be derived from the surface area and the absolute size of resident population. However, density estimation was sometimes carried out in a rough way, especially when comparing very large areas. Density is usually calculated as the ratio of population living in a given area based on administrative limits. An exercise proposing alternative calculation methodologies is illustrated here considering census data on resident population in the major urban contexts of Italy. The empirical results of this study indicate the key role of density indicators that consider increasingly concise and true ‘urban boundaries’ replacing administrative boundaries and reducing statistical errors and spatial misunderstandings. A reflection on the use of improved and dedicated approaches to a more precise estimation of population density over specific administrative domains is fundamental to demographic analysis and urban studies.


demography; urban development; statistical data; Italy.

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