The Spatial Cycle Model reconsidered

This investigation examined a much-used (and also much-abused) method of analysis employed in urban and regional research. The Spatial-Cycle Model (SCM) is concerned with an area that has an identifiable core-ring structure, such as a city (metropolitan area), an extended city, a wider functional urban region, etc. The SCM argues that an area can be expected to pass through a sequence of well-defined stages, each stage being based on a particular combination of population changes in the core and the ring.

Drawing on earlier applications of the model, it was shown that departures from the proposed sequence of stages occur in an unfortunately large number of cases. Examples include an area skipping a stage, an area remaining at a stage, an area reverting to an earlier stage, as well as an area entering or exiting the existing system of areas. As a consequence, the model has little predictive value.

Furthermore, it was demonstrated that the stage of the cycle attained by an area and its passage through the cycle are crucially dependent on whether population change is measured in absolute or relative terms. The investigation concluded with a general evaluation of the SCM, in which consideration was given to the strengths of the model as well as its obvious deficiencies.


Professor John B Parr (Urban Studies, University of Glasgow)


April 2009 to April 2012


Parr, J. B. 2012. "The spatial-cycle model (SCM) revisited", Regional Studies, 46.2, 217-228.