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Landscape and amenity migration: The role of landscape as a driver of immigration to rural Switzerland


In this research project we analyze amenity migration to rural areas in Switzerland. Amenity migrants are migrants that are motivated by local quality of life rather than labor market related and other economic factors. Location-specific quality of life amenities are e.g. a pleasant climate, a high environmental quality and not least a high landscape quality. A growing number of international studies show that aesthetic and recreational values provided by the landscape are potentially of high relevance as a locational factor for rural regions. Hence, landscape amenities tend to attract immigrants, especially those with footloose incomes and have a generally high degree of mobility.

Data on the demographic trends for Swiss rural regions shows that these regions are characterized by heterogeneous developments. While remote areas (e.g. in the Alps) suffer from out-migration and brain-drain, many rural and periruban regions in the Swiss Plateau are growing rapidly by attracting immigrants. In this project we analyze the immigration to these areas with a focus on the role of local landscape amenities.

Objectives and research questions

The project consists of two parts. In module 1 we develop a detailed description of the migratory movements to Swiss rural regions using data from the population census. In doing so we identify rural regions which are attractive to immigrants and we analyze their personal characteristics. Particular attention is paid to return migrants for which statistical information is virtually absent to date. Part 1 deals with the following research questions:

  • Which rural regions attract what numbers of immigrants?
  • How can regions that are particularly successful in attracting in-migrants be described?
  • What are typical characteristics of amenity migrants? (e.g. age, level of education, occupation)

In module 2 we analyze the drivers of migratory movements to rural municipalities using a spatial regression framework. The focus is on the role of landscape amenities. Module 2 deals with the following research questions:

  • What is the role of local landscape quality as a driver of migration to rural municipalities in Switzerland?
  • How does the influence of landscape quality on immigration vary between regions?
  • Which immigrants are particularly attracted to locations with numerous landscape amenities?

The results of this project will provide important information for landscape research and regional and spatial planning by improving our understanding of the determinants of migratory movements to rural areas (with an emphasis on landscape amenities) and by contributing to the refinement of population, regional development and land use scenarios.


  • Zäch, C., Schulz, T., Waltert, F., Pütz, M. 2015.  Landscape and Amenity Migration: Die Rolle von Landschaft für Wanderungsbewegungen in den ländlichen Raum der Schweiz. WSL Berichte, 22. Eidg. Forschungsanstalt WSL. 57 S. [PDF]

Project team