Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies

Staff Profile

Professor Rachel Franklin

Professor of Geographical Analysis


I am Professor of Geographical Analysis in the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS) and the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University, Head of Newcastle Data, Co-I for the EPSRC-funded Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Geospatial Systems, and the Academic Lead for Newcastle for the Alan Turing Institute, where I am also a Fellow. I joined Newcastle in 2018 as one of four chairs appointed to expand the university’s international, cross-disciplinary reputation in Spatial Analytics and Modeling (SAM@Newcastle).


My primary research focus is in spatial demography and the interplay between spatial analytics and demographic change, in particular quantifying patterns, sources and impacts of spatial inequality. I also maintain an ongoing interest in pedagogy, especially the teaching of methods. I have taught spatial analysis, GIS, and quantitative methods for well over a decade, with a pedagogic orientation towards policy applications and the social sciences and humanities, and am co-author of a recent textbook aimed at teaching GIS for the social sciences.


I am the current editor of the journal, Geographical Analysis, and sit on the Board of the Regional Studies Association, as Chair for Diversity and Inclusion. I also hold visiting academic appointments in Population Studies at Brown University and at the Gran Sasso Science Institute (GSSI) in L’Aquila, Italy. I am a member of the editorial boards of Population, Space and PlaceJournal of Geographical SystemsTijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie (TESG), The Annals of Regional Science, International Regional Science ReviewUrban Climate, and Spatial Research and Planning


Prior to joining Newcastle University, I was for eight years (2010–2018) the Associate Director of the Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4) initiative at Brown University in the U.S. and also held an academic appointment in Population Studies. My academic career path has been distinctly non-traditional: I started as a Statistician/Demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau, later worked as Deputy Director of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), and also accomplished a lengthy stint as adjunct faculty at the University of Maryland.


I received my PhD in Geography from the University of Arizona (2004). My previous degrees are from Indiana University: BA (1994) in French and Political Science and MA (1996) in West European Studies.

More about me:


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I am a population geographer with research interests in the sources and impacts of demographic change as it occurs at multiple spatial scales. Demography — age structure, migration patterns, or human capital stocks, for example — is at the core of most social science, health, or environmental challenges facing us. I work at the regional and local scales to understand how best to characterize or measure the populations of places; how location and scale are related to demographic change; and how migration, especially internal, affects demographic composition. I am especially interested in how we use data and statistics to understand what sorts of people are located where, how this changes over time, and what this means for our understanding of spatial inequality.


Spatial Inequality and the Smart City

Smart city technologies, particularly sensors, contribute to and reinforce socio-economic and spatial inequalities. Funded by the Alan Turing Institute, this project aims to identify who is affected by 'sensor deserts', ascertain coverage for vulnerable populations, and improve understanding of connections between urban mobility and sensor density and location. This work contributes to a growing body of research that highlights the potential risk of smart cities increasing rather than reducing inequality and quality of life, providing a blueprint to assist cities in better adoption of smart city technologies.


Depopulation and Shrinking Cities

Recent and ongoing projects address population loss or shrinkage at the local and regional scales in the United States. This research has focused in particular on the ways in which the degree of loss in any one time period may be mediated or exacerbated by the larger geographical and historical context; the demographic sources of population loss; spatial metrics for urban shrinkage; and the impacts of loss on inequality. These projects have been funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health in the United States. Other research focuses on the measurement of human capital stocks and the relationship between migration and human capital, including research on university student migration flows in the United States.


Beyond “Left Behind” Places

Funded by the ESRC and led by Danny MacKinnon in CURDS, this newly-launched, cross-national project involves 16 academic researchers and a range of non-academic partners in the UK, France and Germany. The aim of the project is to develop a new understanding of demographic and socio-economic change in peripheral regions, examining the circumstances and prospects of places and people currently categorised together as 'left behind'. 


In 2021–2022 I am co-teaching Mapping the City (GEO3130), with Dr Wen Lin. Our module presents the study of cities from a spatial analytic perspective, drawing on theory and concepts from both urban and social geography. Major concepts in this module focus on urban development and change, the socio-demographic fabric of the city, and accessibility and spatial inequality, both at the scale of particular cities and at the scale of systems of cities.

These concepts are engaged with through GIS, spatial analytics, and visualization, with the aim of developing enlightened producers and consumers of urban research, policy, and analytics. Specifically, the module covers principles of GIS, cartography, and spatial analytics through engagement with the key urban topics identified above.