The social processes affecting this Zone are in broad outline similar to those influencing other urban regions and the nation as a whole. But in the case of large urban regions, and especially in the case of the Central Ontario Zone, these changes tend to be more intense and more concentrated. The rate of social change is invariably higher in urban areas than in non-urban areas, and the impacts of change are often more visible, dramatic, and more geographically uneven.
There are at least four major sources of change that have swept over this Zone and that guarantee rapid social change in the future. These four include:
- the demographic transition;
- shifts in the rate and components of population growth;
- immigration and increased social and ethno-cultural diversity;
- alternative living arrangements; households, families, lifestyles, and life choices.
Each of these represents an ongoing social transformation, but each has its roots in processes started two generations ago. All, however, will continue to send ripples through the social structure and social geography of the Central Ontario Zone well into the future. Since most of these trends are well-known,7 although not necessarily as widely appreciated, the emphasis here is placed on their implications for planning and public policy.
Given considerable confusion about terminology in the popular media, it is useful to differentiate between the factors influencing:
- the overall rate of change (e.g., population growth);
- the composition of change (e.g., by age group, ethnicity);
- the where, or pattern of change within the Central Ontario Zone (e.g., the geography).
It is also useful to differentiate between the processes underlying these changes, the outcomes of those processes, and the implications of these outcomes. Examples of the latter are provided in summary form in Table 1 as a basis for the following review and discussion.
Table 1: Social Change in Urban Regions: A Summary of the Processes, Outcomes, and Implications for Public Policy
Changing components of population growth
Social and ethnic diversity
Changing attitudes to family and lifestyles