Migration flows between levels of the Brazilian urban hierarchy in the period 1980-2010

Abstract In the 1980s, an inflexion was observed in the spatial redistribution of the Brazilian population, attributed to the relative economic decentralization initiated in the 1970s, especially regarding industrial activities. These changes in the national space economy led to dramatic changes in the volumes and directions of migration flows. This paper researches the impact of the changing patterns of migration across the Brazilian urban hierarchy over the last three decades to determine if a process of deconcentration, as pointed out by some authors, is, in fact, underway. The flows between different levels of the urban hierarchy were calculated based on census data and represented visually in a series of graphs. If a process of deconcentration is occurring, an increase of flows from urban centres positioned in the higher hierarchical levels to lower order centres is expected. This study indicates a process of population concentration in larger cities, but not in the highest level of the urban hierarchy - which suggests an inflexion of historical metropolization tendencies in Brazil. The growing importance of “Regional Capitals”, the second highest level, suggests a process of restructuration and relative decompression of the urban system, although the pace of these changes is slowing down.