Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On arrival cities

Tonight, I was lucky enough to see Canadian journalist Doug Saunders present his new book Arrival City here in Toronto. This book, examining the global phenomenon of rural-to-urban migration--in low-, middle-, and high-income countries, within countries and between countries--makes the case, as summarized by Mark Kingwell in his recent review, that rural-to-urban migration is a very good thing for human beings.

In the terms of economics, cities are full of externalities – spillovers to market transactions. I might hate the noise created by the cafés and bars on the busy street near my house, but I welcome the romantic opportunities created by the very same nightspots.

Both positive and negative externalities are everywhere in urban life, and that’s one clear reason humans have been, for centuries now, progressively abandoning other ways of life and migrating to large, sometimes very large, conurbations.

Another reason, as Doug Saunders argues in this timely contribution to the discourse on global cities, is the simple desire of parents to offer their children a better time than they had.

Indeed, Saunders argues the cultivation of what he calls arrival cities--places where immigrants can find niches, residential, occupational, and otherwise, with as few restraints on all kinds of mobility as possible--is key. What is the arrival city?

The arrival city can be distinguished readily from other urban neighbourhoods, not only by its rural-immigrant population, improvised appearance and ever-changing nature, but also by the constant linkages it makes, in two directions, from every street, house and workplace.

It is linked in a lasting, intensive way to its far-off, originating villages, constantly sending people, money and knowledge back and forth. It finances improvements in the village, the care of older generations and the education of younger ones, while also making possible the next wave of migrations.

It is also deeply engaged with the nearby, established city. Its political institutions, business relationships, social networks and transactions are all footholds intended to give new village arrivals a purchase, however fragile, on the larger society.

The arrival city gives them a place to push themselves and their children further into the centre, into acceptability and connectedness.

The ex-villager enclave located on the periphery of our vision and beyond the tourist maps has become the setting of the world's next chapter – driven by exertion and promise, battered by violence and death, strangled by neglect and misunderstanding.

The first chapter is excerpted here; you'll have to buy the book for more. The concept of the arrival city does strike me as a very strong one. My own biography has connections of a sort to the concept of the arrival city: my parents left easternmost Prince Edward Island for the provincial capital of Charlottetown, where they enjoyed far more educational and occupational and other opportunities that their would have in their home district, settling in a suburb on the fringes of the city. That was an example of a well-regulated arrival city in a high-income countries; a century ago in Toronto, up to one-third of the housing stock was built pell-mell, shantytowns mostly on the fringes of the city. And in the metropoli of the world--Paris, Sao Paulo, Tehran, Mumbai--the same phenomenon that hit Toronto a century ago is being repeated now.

Saunders' key element for successful arrival cities lies in their openness, in their ability to let immigrants join the labour market, find homes and neighbourhoods where they can build useful social networks, assimilate however they do into the host culture, and do so with as little hindrances as possible. China's hukou system, which limits the possibility of rural migrants' settling in cities, is an example of what not to do (although the forced savings of isolated workers plays the useful role of providing the Chinese government with the money necessary to prop up state-own ed enterprises); Turkey and Brazil, which have regularized slums and are now actively trying to support the creation of civil society there, are doing much better. Even in the developed world, there are huge contrasts between a Germany that has let its Turkish population remain culturally and socially isolated, a France that has absorbed its immigrants culturally but left them on the edges of the economy and society, a Spain that had the luxury of planning the integration of its immigrants, and a Canada that was very very lucky.

I'm going on at length, I know. Suffice it to say that Arrival City is easily one of the more important books on migration recently published, and that this blog's readers would do well to pick up a copy for themselves.

Friday, September 24, 2010

On climate change and migration

The American law blog The Volokh Conspiracy is an unusual place to find guest blogs about migration driven by environmental change, but Matthew Kahn, author of the book Climatopolis does have a guest post there. He argues--as he does here, for instance--that migrations triggered by climate change need not be catastrophic, and in fact can be quite manageable or even net economic pluses. A central point of his analysis is that all cities will not be effected equally.

Not all cities will suffer equally from climate change. There are over 300 major cities to choose from in the United States. A city such as Seattle may suffer much less. An implicit assumption throughout Climatopolis is that there will always be some safe area where our cities can thrive and we can migrate to. If the entire 7 billion people on the planet lived at Hong Kong’s density then we would need 1.1 million square kilometers of habitable land. This represents just .7% of the world’s land mass.

Suppose that California’s coastal cities suffer greatly from climate change due to the combined punch of sea level rise, hotter summers, drought and rising electricity prices. Self interested households will see that California cities are no longer great places to live and they will “vote with their feet” and migrate to other cities that have suffered less from climate change or perhaps even gained due to warmer winter temperatures.

[. . .]

Our ability to migrate means that urban places can suffer while urban people continue to prosper. Within the New York City metropolitan area, New Jersey employment centers may gain if Southern Manhattan and Wall Street are under siege from sea level rise. Land owners in Southern Manhattan will suffer but workers at downtown Goldman Sachs would not.

Kahn even suggests that these migrations, from areas heavily impacted by climate change to areas not-so-heavily impacted, could through the reallocation of labour into more vibrant and/or rejuvenated environs. If the proper human connections exist, of course.

Growth economists have long argued that human capital (attracting and retaining the footloose, skilled) is the key for a nation or a city to enjoy sustainable growth. If a city such as Los Angeles loses its quality of life edge, then the skilled will move elsewhere and firms will be less likely to move to Los Angeles. Similar to a neighborhood with high crime or bad schools, local real estate prices will fall. The owners of such assets will bear the incidence of this “new news”. While real estate values would decline in cities deemed to be increasingly at risk, there are other cities that could actually experience a windfall. Today, you can trade one home near UCLA for 100 Detroit homes. In 2070, will this exchange rate still hold or will there be parity?

[. . .]

Does this same optimism hold in the developing world? In the United States, there are a large number of cities scattered across various geographical regions. In other nations such as Bangladesh, there is unlikely to be the same menu to choose from. As “environmental refugees” seek out safer havens they may cross political boundaries into nations where they are not welcome. Developed countries could ease adaptation in the developing world if they loosen immigration restrictions. Migration also represents an upfront investment that requires resources. The poorest of the poor may be unable to move and not to have the information or social networks concerning potential beneficial destinations.

I agree with Kahn to a certain extent. Back in June 2009 I blogged about climate change-driven migration in West Africa, noting how there were already well-established traditions of migration to and from the Sahel to the West African coast, and these these migrations played a significant role in economic growth in littoral states like Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. Could a substantial migration of skilled Californians rejuvenate a Detroit notable for a decent locatino and very low real estate prices? I don't doubt it. If climate change-driven migration isn't a sudden process, but rather takes place on time scales on the order of decades, it needn't be unmanageable.

But. Kahn's analysis assumes that there is little possibility catastrophic runaway change with effects as outlined by Sublime Oblivion's Anatoly Karlin at the link previous, or that if it does happen the consequences will be manageable. This strikes me as optimistic. Le monde diplomatique observed that in 1998 the expected influx of very large numbers of Kosovar refugees into Albania threatened to destabilize an already shaky economy, while in 1999 the consequences of the Kosovo catastrophe weighed heavily on the entire western Balkans region. If, say, the Netherlands is significantly flooded, what would happen? Where would the Dutch go? What would happen to the Eurozone economy? If California enters a long period of economic decline precipitated by a worsening climate, what will happen to the American economy? If Shanghai floods, or has to protect itself, what will happen to the Chinese? Et cetera. The loss in infrastructure investments alone, never mind symbolism/morale, would be serious indeed.

The political and social consequences of migration of this scale also need to be considered. In Côte d'Ivoire, the migrations from the Sahel were eventually used for political and economic reasons to trigger xenophobia among the Ivoiriens de souche, leading to more than a decade of civil war and division. The decades of net migration from the Sahel did benefit Côte d'Ivoire, but the country experienced a meltdown nonetheless. The factor of xenophobia is less of an issue in some countries and regions than in others--the American population may be mobile enough to cope--but it still has to be considered. In the example of Bangladesh, source of perhaps tens of millions of migrants in India who often act as cheap labour, fears of Bangladeshi immigrants' links to terrorism and flee Assam won't help things in the case of future mass migrations.

And then, there is the question of what people who need to migrate but don't have the connections necessary to successfully migrate--or even migrate at all--will do. What will be done?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two current cases of sustained life expectancy decline, and one possible future one

Co-blogger Scott Peterson recently linked to a study suggesting that in the United States--and by implication, other high-income countries and/or countries with high rates of obesity--the expected sustained increase in life expectancy might not happen, indeed, might be reversed.

“Over the next few decades, life expectancy for the average American could decline by as much as 5 years unless aggressive efforts are made to slow rising rates of obesity, according to a team of scientists supported in part by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)…The U.S. could be facing its first sustained drop in life expectancy in the modern era, the researchers say, but this decline is not inevitable if Americans — particularly younger ones — trim their waistlines or if other improvements outweigh the impact of obesity…

The new analysis, by S. Jay Olshansky, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Leonard Hayflick, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, Robert N. Butler, M.D., of the International Longevity Center in New York, and others* suggests that the methods used to establish life expectancy projections, which have long been based on historic trends, need to be reassessed. This reevaluation is particularly important, they say, as obesity rates surge in today’s children and young adults.

“Forecasting life expectancy by extrapolating from the past is like forecasting the weather on the basis of its history,” Olshansky and his colleagues write. “Looking out the window, we see a threatening storm — obesity —that will, if unchecked, have a negative effect on life expectancy.”

Unlike historic life expectancy forecasts, which rely on past mortality trends, the Olshansky group bases their projection on an analysis of body mass indexes and other factors that could potentially affect the health and well-being of the current generation of children and young adults, some of whom began having weight problems very early in life. The authors say that unless steps are taken to curb excessive weight gain, younger Americans will likely face a greater risk of mortality throughout life than previous generations.”

The idea surprises me, but it shouldn't have. I've heard enough about the metabolic syndrome, strongly associated with obesity along with high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, and so on, to know that its health consequences can be severe, particularly insofar as diabetes and heart disease is concerned. Three of the four risk factors leading to the metabolic syndrome--not genetics, but yes weight, aging, and a sedentary lifestyle--are becoming increasingly common in our increasingly overfed, aging, and physically inactive world. Can medical technology compensate for this? It's open to question.

Long-standing health issues leading to sustained stagnation or declines in life expectancy reminds me of what happened in the Soviet Union, where--contrary many popular reports--life expectancy decline began as early as the 1960s.

During the 1960s, though, life expectancy in the United States rose rapidly, while life expect-ancy in the Russian republic faltered and began to decline. The gap between East and West in life expectancy, like the gap in economic performance, grew steadily wider.

This trend was already apparent by the early 1980s. In a 1982 Population Bulletin published by PRB, Murray Feshbach, former chief of the U.S. Census Bureau's research unit on the USSR's population, noted "the mortality rise of the last decade and a half" and cautioned that "[I]f the health sector is neglected, the adverse mortality trend which has resulted in a major reduction in the life expectancy of Soviet males may persist."

The story within the story came in the late 1980s, when then-President Mikhail Gorbachev instituted a vigorous antialcohol campaign as part of a wider effort to rescue Russian society, and the Soviet state, from self-destruction. The draconian, unpopular, and probably unsustainable campaign produced a sharp but temporary improvement in mortality rates. The collapse of the public health campaign, the collapse of the Gorbachev government, and the breakup of the Soviet Union nearly coincided in 1988 and 1989. The progress quickly made since the mid-1980s was just as quickly lost, and the long-term decline continued until the mid-1990s.

Cause-of-death data are difficult to use for comparisons over long periods or across countries with very different medical and statistical systems, but several independent analyses have come to the same conclusion: The decline in life expectancy and the gap between levels in Russia and the rest of Europe can be attributed mainly to abnormally high rates of cardiovascular disease and injury, for both of which abuse of alcohol was a major risk factor.

But limiting the comparison to the last 10 or 12 years is misleading. Comparing the unusually good years of 1986 and 1987, when the antialcohol campaign was most effective, with the lowest points of the mid-1990s exaggerates the speed of decline. Any other choice of start and end dates would produce a more characteristic picture of steady, long-term decline.

Sharply rising infant mortality from the early 1970s on certainly didn't help. According to Eberstadt in 1988, with the exception of Georgia and Armenia, life expectancy was significantly below Western levels as a result of lifestyle risks, with life expectancy in developed Russia being on part with underdeveloped Uzbekistan's.

Arguably, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in southern Africa is similar in its determination by long-term trends, with the sustained catastrophic drop in life expectancy even in wealthy South Africa produced by a combination of overlapping sexual networks and an apartheid-era migration system that helped break down community and family structures.

Average life expectancy declined from 62 years in 1990 to 50 years in 2007; it is projected to fall even further by 2011, to 48 years for men and 51 for women, according to the Institute's annual South Africa Survey.

The authors note that among 37 developed and developing countries, South Africa is one of only six where life expectancy fell between 1990 and 2007, with only Zimbabwe showing a steeper decline.

Of South Africa's nine provinces, those with the highest HIV prevalence rates also had the lowest life expectancy - KwaZulu-Natal at 43 years, followed by Free State and Mpumalanga, both at 47 years. The leading causes of death were tuberculosis (TB), influenza and pneumonia, all common opportunistic infections associated with HIV/AIDS.

Seventy percent of people diagnosed with TB in South Africa were co-infected with HIV, and "it is thus reasonable to assume that at least 70 percent of observed mortality from tuberculosis, and by extension a comparable percentage of deaths from influenza/pneumonia, also has HIV and AIDS as an underlying cause." Nearly half of all deaths in 2008 were thought to be HIV/AIDS related - up from a third in 2001.

Gail Eddy, a researcher at the Institute, commented that although neither the public health system nor the government's antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programme were reaching all those in need, particularly in rural areas, a slight decrease in mortality rates in the last two years may be the result of ARVs gradually becoming more widely available.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic contributed to a 43 percent reduction in population growth between 2001 and 2008; a fall in birth rates also played a role.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Does the dependency ratio mean all that much now?

The old age dependency ratio--the proportion of people over 65 to people of working age (15 to 64 years of age) is the standard metric for measuring a population's aging, and by extension, the degree to which an aging country's economy will have to somehow cope with the rapid growth of pension expenditures, the contraction of the workforce, et cetera. Now, a new study out of Vienna's IIASA makes an argument that with improving health for older people, the dependency ratio doesn't make that much sense.

Those measures are based on fixed chronological ages, and this can generate misleading results,” says Dr. Warren Sanderson, from IIASA and SBU. “When using indicators that assume fixed chronological ages, it’s assumed that there will be no progress in factors such as remaining life expectancies and in disability rates. But many age-specific characteristics have not remained fixed and are not expected to remain constant in the future.”

However, many people over 65 are not in need of the care of others, and, on the contrary, may be caregivers themselves. The authors provide a new dependency measure based on disabilities that reflect the relationship between those who need care and those who are capable of providing care, it is called the adult disability dependency ratio (ADDR). The paper shows that when aging is measured based on the ratio of those who need care to those who can give care, the speed of aging is reduced by four-fifths compared to the conventional old-age dependency ratio.

Dependency ratios. Authors’ calculation. OADR and POADR are based on UN, World Population Prospects: The 2008 revision (WPP). ADDR are based on both UN WPP and European Health Expectancy Monitoring Unit Survey Data (see references in article). The lower age boundary in all denominations is 20.

Co-author Dr.Sergei Scherbov, from IIASA and the VID, states that “if we apply new measures of aging that take into account increasing life-spans and declining disability rates, then many populations are aging slower compared to what is predicted using conventional measures based purely on chronological age.”

The new work looks at “disability-free life expectancies,” which describe how many years of life are spent in good health. It also explores the traditional measure of old age dependency, and another measure that looks specifically at the ratio of disabilities in adults over the age of 20 in a population. Their calculations show that in the United Kingdom, for example, while the old age dependency ratio is increasing, the disability ratio is remaining constant. What that means, according to the authors, is that, “although the British population is getting older, it is also likely to be getting healthier, and these two effects offset one another.”

The new ratio that Sanderson and Scherbov introduce, of the ratio of disabilities in adults over the age of 20 in a population, does seem to make more sense in certain contexts notwithstanding a degree of subjectivity (what will different statistical agencies define as "disabilities"). The press release quotes the authors as suggesting that, if population aging is much less catastrophic a phenomenon that previously presented--this AFP article reports the authors suggest that "[w]hen aging is measured based on a ratio of those who need care to those who can deliver care, the speed of aging is reduced by four-fifths compared to the conventional old-age dependency ratio"--gradualist reforms of pension and retirement aging, potentially more manageable than sharp hikes, could become possible. Certainly if this ratio did become the new metric social and economic systems would urgently need revision to match.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Will Ceuta and Melilla become Moroccan?

Continuing from yesterday's post examining Morocco as a source of migrants for Europe, recently on my own blog, A Bit More Detail, riffed from Geocurrents' posts on the contested enclaves on the Strait of Gibraltar, examining the positions of British Gibraltar on the Spanish shore and Spanish Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan. Now, at Morocco's Yabiladi, Ibrahim Kone's article "Demographics to the rescue of Moroccan Ceuta and Melilla" ("La démographie au secours de la marocanité de Ceuta et Melilla") argues that higher birth rates among Muslims in the Spanish enclaves will lead to their assimilation to Morocco.

[T]here are more and more Moroccans in Ceuta and Melilla. According to data from the Spanish Institute of Statistics (INE), reported by Libertad Digital, in 2008 34% of infants had mothers Melilla Moroccan cons "only 17% of Ceuta." The table of the popular names of children born in Melilla in the 60s [included at the original article], and one of the last decade is revealing.

Melilla enclave would be the first endangered by the demographic peril. Its population is already half Muslim and Moroccan origin. The fertility of Muslims is higher than that of Spanish (not Muslim) and even higher than that of the Moroccans of "Morocco".

[. . .]

The continuous growth of the number of Moroccans will result in a societal and political balance that will go in favor of the majority. There will be more demands from Muslims, most politicians of the Muslim faith, and from there, there will be a government with a Muslim majority. The Spaniards are ready to accept a being a dominant minority, but never will they be a dominated minority. What will happen in the next few years? Will they agree to stay in Melilla as a minority? This is doubtful as misgivings about Islam are important. The return of Ceuta and Melilla on Morocco's lap could happen in the next few decades as predicted by King Hassan II.

As even the author admits, the fact that one's Muslim in one of the two Spanish enclaves does not translate into automatic support for accession to Mexico. The fact remains that living in these two Spanish cities, southern outposts of the European Union, users of the Euro, and territories of a stable and prosperous democracy, is good; if Ceuta and Melilla became Moroccan, then notwithstanding Morocco's recent economic development they would suffer catastrophe. More, as I noted in my blog post, most of the Moroccans in the enclaves are Berbers who appreciated living in a state that, unlike the Arabizing monarchy of Morocco, offers space for their cultural expression. The profoundly bad assumption that demographic trends among the enclaves' different communities will continue as in the past also needs to be looked at quite critically.

Demographics, it's quite worth noting yet again, is not destiny, or at certainly not the simplistic demographics used by the author.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

What do Mexico and Morocco have in common?

Some time ago I came across an interesting article at Morocco Board, Hein de Haas and Simona Vezzoli's "Migration & Development Experiences of Morocco and Mexico". Their thesis is simple.

Over the second half of the 20th century, Mexico and Morocco have evolved into main sources of predominantly low-skilled migrant labor in the United States and the European Union, respectively.

Despite large historical, cultural, and economic differences, these two countries share the geopolitical feature of being located on the globe's main South-North divides and "migration frontiers." This explains the striking similarities between Mexican and Moroccan migration trends.

About 10 percent of Moroccan and Mexican citizens live abroad, and in both countries, remittances have become a vital source of income and poverty alleviation, particularly in rural areas.

In view of the strategic importance of migration, it is not surprising that both the Moroccan and Mexican governments have openly or tacitly encouraged emigration and have recently intensified efforts to foster ties with their emigrant populations to maximize remittance flows and to boost the positive development impact of migration.

de Haas and Vezzoli go on to identify a wide range of similarities between the Moroccan and Mexican migration experiences: in the 1950s and 1960s the two countries evolved into major sources of unskilled labour for booming American and western European economies, from an initial concentration of migrants in areas and countries they were closely connected with (California and the southwest in the case of Mexico, France in the case of Morocco) the communities have expanded geographically to new destinations, emigration is driven by the relative attractiveness of labour markets in the receiving countries, and the remittances of these migrants play a huge role in domestic economies. Of note is the fact that human development indices (life expectancies, literacy rates, fertility rates) between sending and receiving countries have narrowed considerably over the past half-century while the GDP per capita gaps have remained stable. Morocco's relatively more dependent on remittances than Mexico, being a low-income country instead of a middle-income one, but the two countries still share challenges. How can emigration from sending to receiving countries be used for the maximum benefit of the sending countries?

While generally beneficial for individuals, families, and the communities involved, migration's impact on regional development and growth is much more contested. A central observation of the study tours was that depending on the general development context, migration impacts differ across and even within regions. Even more importantly, the study tours observed that migration tends to reinforce preexisting development trends and may therefore set in motion positive (virtuous) as well as negative (vicious) migration-and-development circles.

For example, in relatively isolated and disadvantaged areas, migration may further accelerate population decline and undermine economic productivity. However, in these cases, migration is a symptom, not a cause, of such decline.

The relative isolation of villages in mountainous areas of Zacatecas and some of the smaller, difficult-to-reach oases in southern Morocco marginalize them from economic interaction with more central parts of Mexico and Morocco, respectively. In turn, this lack of economic interaction hinders their development. Young adults then leave these traditional settlements in search of opportunities elsewhere. The resulting depopulation can create "ghost towns" where only a few households are left, among them a handful of young families with children.

By contrast, centrally located and economically thriving areas and regions are more likely to lure migrants and remittances back in; migrants from other parts of the country may relocate their remaining family members to these places, and migrants know that investments in such areas are more likely to produce returns than investments in rural hometowns. These decisions can further accelerate growth, particularly in urban centers. Within rural regions, migrants often prefer to invest in and return to "migrant boomtowns," accelerating existing urbanization trends.

[. . .]

A key observation and hypothesis to explore is that migration can perhaps make the largest difference in "semi-peripheral" regions, where economies are neither booming nor declining, but where they have potential for growth. In these places, remittances might trigger a virtuous cycle by pushing regional economies over a certain tipping point, leading to accelerated growth. A comparative study of regions and towns whose growth is related to migrants' circulation and investments would provide significant insights into the conditions under which migration can boost development processes.

The whole essay goes into much more detail than my quotes and summary suggests, and is certainly worth your reading. Go there.