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A historical approach to the economic development of Spanish municipalities: the ruralurban dichotomy during the 20th century to the present.

20th National Competition for Economic Research Grants (2021)

Economic history

Senior Researcher : Ignacio Cazcarro Castellano

Research Centre or Institution : Universidad de Zaragoza


The project consists of the analysis and evaluation of the influencing factors in the evolutio of the Spanish municipalities population, from the 20th century to the present. As well as the implications and consequences that may derive from this, especially in the face of demographic challenges, such as -mainly rural- depopulation. This implies filling a great gap in terms of systematic and consistent databases and associated literature available. The research consists of 4 specific objectives: 1) Preparation and analysis by Spanish municipalities of a historical database of the population, irrigated areas, dry land and pastures, as well as associated climatic and geographical variables during the 20th century until the present. 2) Preparation and analysis of variables that quantify Spanish municipal economic activity during the 20th century to the present. 3) Analysis and evaluation of explanatory factors of municipal demographic change in Spain, with special emphasis on the role of irrigation, as well as the installation of other industries and developments in the long term. 4) Analysis of development proposals and future options, e.g. related to the energy transition. This extension should make it possible to understand and project phenomena and proposals of key interest such as the demographic challenge.

The study has a clearly applied, historical and empirical character, being projected to be useful for the present and the future. Although the information about population levels in each municipality is relatively accessible from the censuses (approximately every decade), the lack of coherent and unified information for holistic analyses is evident. The research team considers that a good part of the climatic and geographic information, and of land use, can be used to elaborate this base, but other variables potentially explanatory of population change are less obvious or accessible. This fact is especially noticeable for economic variables on a scale as specific as municipalities. It can be stated that there are no databases or studies that have been capable of systematically representing and analysing the economic evolution of Spanish municipalities. Therefore, it has not been possible to evaluate jointly with the population matter, nor with other potentially explanatory factors, as is going to be done in this work, which aims to be a pioneer in this field of social sciences, and more particularly of economic history and economic, social and environmental analysis.


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