Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Not applicable

Advisor Role

Not applicable


An attempt to discover and analyze the emerging trends of urban growth represents a problem of immediate concern for geographers. However, much of this research has been concerned primarily with large urban areas. This thesis is an attempt to learn more about the dynamics of small town population change and thus, concerns itself with determining trends of small town population growth.

Specifically, this thesis investigates the differential growth patterns for selected small towns in Southwestern Ontario for the 1961–1971, and 1971–1976 periods to ascertain precisely some of the factors associated with population growth and decline, and for presenting findings that may contribute to existing theory of small town population change.

Initial analysis of the spatial patterns of small town growth rates revealed that distinct regional and temporal variations exist within the study area. Small towns are shown to be experiencing increased rates of growth relative to larger urban areas in the study area and in the province. In terms of relative population change, the trend has been upward, indicating that small towns as places of residence have become more popular. The spatial redistribution of population through net migration was found to be the predominate process influencing the population growth of small towns during the 1961–1976 period. Declining fertility rates in the province are shown to have impeded the growth of small towns in the study area.

To examine possible associations between small town functional profiles and their respective rates of growth, small towns were measured individually on a wide range of selected functional variables for 1971. Factor analysis was performed to sort out each functional profile. The resulting factor score profiles were subsequently used in a grouping analysis whereby optimal hierarchical groupings of small towns were derived for 1971 based on their functional profiles.

The grouping analysis revealed that hierarchical groups of small urban areas, based on their functional profiles for 1971, did not account for variations in selected population and growth indices. Consequently, functional complexity and diversity are not considered to be a major factor associated in variations in small town population growth.

A general linear model was then developed to better account for the variations in small town growth rates. The model includes variables in small town growth rates. The model includes variables which represent four general types of data; i) demographic, ii) economic, iii) locational (accessibility), and iv) employment structure. Using multiple linear regression, estimated linear equations were generated for each of the two study periods.

This analysis produced several notable results. Although the regression equations were shown to poorly reflect variations in the growth of small towns, they did reveal that locational (accessibility), economic, and functional factors accounted for a significant proportions of the variation in small town growth rates. The low levels of explained variance accounted for by the regression procedures suggested that the structural profile of a community taken at one point in time (1971), did not prove to be an optimal means of accounting for variations in growth rates among small towns. It is suggested that perhaps dynamic measures of growth determinants may be more useful in this regard. The results of the regression procedures also appear to reflect random growth patterns inherent in the social change approach to urban systems growth.

With respect to possible planning implications, the thesis contributes one major point. Small towns are set within a context of uncertainty as the parameters directing population growth and migration flows have become very complex and unpredictable. As a result, planning policies should be designed in a flexible manner in order to adapt to rapidly changing conditions.

Convocation Year