Anja Herkner
Institute of Rural Studies

Bundesallee 64
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 5501
Fax: +49 531 596 5599

Monitoring of rural areas in Germany


Rural areas in Germany in focus (c) und Thünen-Institut/Stefan Neumeier
Rural areas in Germany in focus (© und Thünen-Institut/Stefan Neumeier)

Monitoring of rural areas in Germany: living conditions according to the official statistics and as perceived by the population

Depending on the typology applied, rural areas in Germany are home to about 30 to 50 percent of the population. They are characterized by villages and small towns, a great share of agricultural land use and forestry, as well as a relatively low population, settlement and building density.

Background and Objective

The official statistics already offer a wide range of data and indicators to analyse and depict living conditions in rural areas. Yet, rurality is characterized by highly diverse social, economic and structural conditions which so far can only hardly be portrayed. Neither an urban-rural dichotomy nor a rural-urban continuum are scientifically satisfactory concepts. Equally important is the fact that our knowledge on how the inhabitants of rural areas perceive and assess their quality of life and service provision – and whether distinct assessments coincide with different types of rural areas – is fairly limited. The monitoring project both provides a differentiated picture of rural areas in Germany and involves the perceptions of the population.


The monitoring consists of four components:

1. a typology of rural areas to give consideration to the diversity of rurality in Germany,
2. a continuously expanded set of indicators that allows for the analysis and illustration of social, demographic and economic developments of rural areas as well as their land use,
3. a web-mapping application (Landatlas) to display the different indicators by means of interactive maps and
4. standardized questionnaire surveys among the rural population on how rural quality of life and the provision of public and private services are assessed by applying the Capability Approach.

Data and Methods

The monitoring builds, on the one hand, upon existing structural data that will be presented in interactive maps. To this end, we use small-scale data from official federal and state statistics (particularly the INKAR system of the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development BBSR) and create new indices in order to display the social, demographic, economic and land-use situation of rural areas in Germany as well as its changes over time.

On the other hand, we create new data concerning the perceptions of rural living conditions by the population. To this end, in 2016 we conducted two standardised questionnaire surveys in rural areas in Germany. The first survey (general survey) focused on the quality of life and service provision as perceived by all population groups aged 18 years and older. It particularly considers issues of how to ensure a work-family balance. The second survey (in-depth survey) with the same thematic focus only addressed families with children younger than 13 years. This study is conducted in co-operation with the German Youth (DJI).

Our Research Questions

  •  How can we analytically and meaningfully classify rural areas in Germany?
  • How do distinct types of rural areas differ with respect to their social, demographic and economic situation and in their land use?
  • How does the population perceive the quality of life and provision of services in rural areas? Which problems and problematic areas can be identified? How are issues of the work-life balance perceived and assessed in different types of rural areas?


Preliminary Results

  • In 2016, the new socio-spatial typology of rural areas was completed and published as a Thünen Working Paper.
  • The web mapping application (Landatlas) which is continuously enlarged and updated is to be found
  • Results of the surveys with regard to the quality of life and work-life balance in different types of rural areas in Germany will be published in a Thünen Report.


Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners


Permanent task 7.2015

More Information

Projekt type:
Funding program: Bundesprogramm Ländliche Entwicklung
Project status: ongoing

Publications to the project

hits: 5

  1. Osigus T, Neumeier S, Steinführer A, Küpper P, Kreis J (2018) Landatlas : ausgewählte Kartenbeispiele. Berlin: BMEL, 52 p
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 20905 kb
  2. Steinführer A, Osigus T, Küpper P, Neumeier S, Kreis J (2018) Ländliche Räume im Fokus: der Landatlas als neue Informationsplattform. IÖR Schr 76:153-160
  3. Born KM, Steinführer A (2018) Ländliche Räume: Definitionsprobleme, Herausforderungen und gesellschaftlicher Wandel. In: Stein M, Scherak L (eds) Kompendium Jugend im ländlichen Raum. Bad Heilbrunn: Verl Julius Klinkhardt, pp 17-44
  4. Küpper P (2016) Abgrenzung und Typisierung ländlicher Räume. Braunschweig: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, 53 p, Thünen Working Paper 68, DOI:10.3220/WP1481532921000
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 1927 kb
  5. Steinführer A, Osigus T, Küpper P, Neumeier S, Kreis J, Plankl R, Wolff M (2016) Landatlas 2016 : ausgewählte Kartenbeispiele. Berlin: BMEL, 45 p
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 6452 kb