Sunday, June 24, 2007

Demographic Benefits of Migration

A recent working paper from the World Bank:

Summary: The view that international migration has no impact on the size of world population is a sensible one. But the author argues, migration from developing to more industrial countries during the past decades may have resulted in a smaller world population than the one which would have been attained had no international migration taken place for two reasons: most of recent migration has been from high to low birth-rate countries, and migrants typically adopt and send back to their home countries models and ideas that prevail in host countries. Thus, migrants are potential agents of the diffusion of demographic modernity, that is, the reduction of birth rates among nonmigrant communities left behind in origin countries. This hypothesis is tested with data from Morocco and Turkey where most emigrants are bound for the West, and Egypt where they are bound for the Gulf. The demographic differentials encountered through migration in these three countries offer contrasted situations-host countries are either more (the West) or less (the Gulf) advanced in their demographic transition than the home country. Assuming migration changes the course of demographic transition in origin countries, the author posits that it should work in two opposite directions-speeding it up in Morocco and Turkey and slowing it down in Egypt. Empirical evidence confirms this hypothesis. Time series of birth rates and migrant remittances (reflecting the intensity of the relationship kept by emigrants with their home country) are strongly correlated with each other. Correlation is negative for Morocco and Turkey, and positive for Egypt. This suggests that Moroccan and Turkish emigration to Europe has been accompanied by a fundamental change of attitudes regarding marriage and birth, while Egyptian migration to the Gulf has not brought home innovative attitudes in this domain, but rather material resources for the achievement of traditional family goals. Other data suggest that emigration has fostered education in Morocco and Turkey but not in Egypt. And as has been found in the literature, education is the single most important determinant of demographic transition among nonmigrant populations in migrants' regions of origin. Two broader conclusions are drawn. First, the acceleration of the demographic transition in Morocco and Turkey is correlated with migration to Europe, a region where low birth-rates is the dominant pattern. This suggests that international migration may have produced a global demographic benefit under the form of a relaxation of demographic pressures for the world as a whole. Second, if it turns out that emigrants are conveyors of new ideas in matters related with family and education, then the same may apply to a wider range of civil behavior.

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