Professur für Internationale Planungssysteme

Kaiserslautern, Rheinland-Pfalz

Shrinkage profile of Kaiserslautern

Kaiserslautern is a city located within the district of Kaiserslautern in the German state Rhineland-Palatinate. The city’s origins reach back to the 9th century. The city’s population growth becomes significant after 1860, when industrialization brought new jobs in the manufacturing of textile, machines and metal processing (Statistisches Landesamt Rheinland-Pfalz 2012a). Today Kaiserslautern covers an area of approx. 139.7 km2. In 2011 the city had 99.790 inhabitants. On the first look and compared to the other case study cities, Flint, Youngstown and Zwickau, shrinkage in Kaiserslautern has never been a severe problem.

On the table and in the graph below one can see the development of population. Beginning from the 1850’s up until 1939 the population grew at modest pace carried by the manufacturing sector. During the 2nd world war the city was bombed several times leading to a loss of population and economic capacity. After the war, the return of refugees and the deployment of a U.S. garrison led to a steep increase in inhabitants. Moreover; the manufacturing industries recovered. For example, Adam Opel AG started production in their Kaiserslautern factory in 1966. In the year 1969, Kaiserslautern incorporated several smaller municipalities which led to a growth in population over 100.000 inhabitants (Stadtverwaltung Kaiserslautern 2012, p. 30; Stadt Kaiserslautern – Chronik 2012). Since then the population remains around that number.

An exception in population development can be found in the three years past the reunification when the net in-migration was between 1000 and 2000 inhabitants. Another significant point in the population development can be seen in 2009 with a net growth of almost 2200 inhabitants (Statistisches Landesamt Rheinland-Pfalz 2012b). This coincides with newly installed tax regulations for secondary residences, making swapping to a status of primary residency more attractive.


Like the other case study cities of this project, Flint and Youngstown, but also many other German cities with industrial manufacturing, structural changes started to take effect during the 1970’s (enhanced by the oil crisis).

In Kaiserslautern, the University was founded in 1970, bringing a new economic branch to the city. This might have compensated migration tendencies from people who lost their job during this time. Since then the University has attracted a large number of new residents, both students and employees, to the city (WFK 2012, p. 27).

Reasons for a stable population

Since 1975 the migration balance of Kaiserslautern shows only small differences between around +1000 people and -500 people (Stadtverwaltung Kaiserslautern 2012, p. 32). The reasons for this can be found in the shift of local economy from manufacturing to service industry. Since 1974, the number of jobs within the secondary sector declined from 47.300 to 29.220 in 2010. In the same period the number of jobs in the service sector increased from 45.840 to 73.770 jobs, which means that employment remained on a stable level (WFK 2011, p. 25).
This development is at least partly attributed to the foundation of the University of Kaiserslautern. Approximately 100 companies have been founded as spin-offs from the university throughout the region. Several of these companies are still located in Kaiserslautern and operate mainly in research and development and the service sector (WFK 2011, p. 12).

Another major factor for employment in the city as well as in the region is the US military presence in the US Airbase Ramstein. Today 2770 people from Kaiserslautern and 2877 in the county of Kaiserslautern work for the US Forces. In 1991 there were 5147 people employed from the city and 3151 in the county (WFK 2011, p. 28). With the latest cutbacks in the US military budget it is likely that there are further reductions of employees.

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