Despite that several countries have made a call of action for enhancing data collection and capacity building of the national statistical systems to improve migration data, there has not been much progress. The High Level on International Migration in 2013 “emphasized the need for reliable statistical data on international migration, including when possible on the contributions of migrants to development in both origin and destination countries.”
Darling you got to let me know // Should I stay or should I go?
One way to escape poverty is to leave it behind. Literally. Moving from a poorer to richer area is so advantageous for individuals that an entire literature on migration has developed to explain why more people don't move.
If you say that you are mine // I’ll be here ‘till the end of time
Bryan, Chowdhury, and Mobarak conducted an experiment in northwestern Bangladesh to induce migration. They offered households a small subsidy to migrate, a round-trip bus ticket worth $8.50. This proved sufficient for people to migrate, and those who migrated earned more and enjoyed higher levels of welfare. So it brought up a new question: why hadn’t those households already decided to migrate?
This immobility is problematic because it’s not supposed to happen. Foundational migration theories, like the Harris-Todaro model, were designed to explain movement from poorer to richer areas. These migrations made sense: people were arbitraging wages and other amenities across space, receiving more by being elsewhere. But how can we explain the opposite—people who don’t migrate—when the welfare gains would be tremendous?
If I go, there will be trouble // if I stay it will be double
In my job market paper I explain why people rationally would not make moves that offer higher welfare. I do this by modeling migration as a sequential decision where people try to figure out which location would suit them best.
Earlier this month the news tickers were abuzz with the ‘breaking news’ that the United States has withdrawn from a United Nations pact to improve the handling of migrant and refugee situations, deeming it inconsistent with its policies; claiming immigration as a sovereignty issue. It is somewhat ironic that this announcement came just two weeks before the International Migrants Day on Dec 18th.
That international borders limit migration is obvious. But why should provincial or state borders prevent people from moving within a country? After all, most countries do not impose restrictions on mobility like the “hukou” system in China. Yet, in an article forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Geography, we find evidence of “invisible walls” between Indian states (Kone, Zovanga Louis; Mattoo, Aaditya; Ozden, Caglar; Sharma, Siddharth. 2017). Indians, particularly men seeking education and jobs, display a puzzling reluctance to cross state borders.
Oxfam Humanitarian Policy Adviser Ed Cairns reflects on using evidence to influence the treatment of refugees.
Who thinks that governments decide what to do on refugees after carefully considering the evidence? Not many, I suspect. So it was an interesting to be asked to talk about that at the ‘Evidence for Influencing’conference Duncan wrote about last week.
When I think what influences refugee policy, I’m reminded of a meeting I had in Whitehall on Friday 4 September, two days after the three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, had drowned. Oxfam and other NGOs had been invited in to talk about refugees. The UK officials found out what their policy was by watching Prime Minister David Cameron on their phones, as he overturned the UK’s refusal to resettle thousands of Syrians in a press conference in Lisbon. Even then, he and his officials refused to promise how many Syrians would be allowed. By Monday, that line had crumbled as well, and a promise of 20,000 by 2020 was announced.
The evidence of course had shown that children and other refugees had been tragically drowning in the Mediterranean for months. But it was the sheer human emotion, the public interest, and no doubt Cameron’s own compassion that made the change. Evidence and the evidence-informed discussion between officials and NGOs had nothing to do with it. More important was that a single image of a drowned boy spread to 20 million screens within 12 hours as #refugeeswelcome began trending worldwide. As research by the Visual Social Media Lab at the University of Sheffield set out, “a single image transformed the debate”.
Two years later, a new Observatory of Public Attitudes to Migration has just been launched by the Florence-based Migration Policy Centreand its partners, including IPSOS Mori in the UK. It aims to be the ‘go-to centre for researchers and practitioners’, and has sobering news for anyone who thinks that evidence has a huge influence on this issue. Anti-migrant views, it shows, are far more driven by the values of tradition, conformity and security, and within the UK in particular, according to an IPSOS Mori study, by a distrust of experts, alongside suspicion of diversity, human rights and “political correctness”.
Cities are the new states; today, many of the world’s 31 megacities have larger populations and economies than individual nations.
For many people, these big urban centers represent the land of opportunity, offering better chances of employment, increased access to education and health services, social mobility. For many others it’s a daily struggle for survival. In all big cities, the inequality between rich and poor has become gigantic and the divide seems only to grow.
We conducted a poll to investigate one aspect: how do women perceive their life in the world’s megacities? We chose women because they are the real economic accelerators, re-investing 90% of their salary into their families. When a woman thrives, her immediate community thrives with her.
Throughout June and July, we asked 380 gender experts in the 19 countries hosting the world’s biggest megacities to identify in which they thought women fared best and worst. The findings were eye-opening. They returned a truly compelling snapshot of the wider issues faced by women: from sexual violence, to security, to access to reproductive rights, from the risks of harmful cultural practices, to the lack of access to economic opportunities.
London was voted the world’s most female-friendly metropolis, thanks to its provision of free healthcare and access to economic resources such as education and financial services. Tokyo and Paris came second and third.
But when we look at what concerned women most, the poll offers proper food for thought. In London, for example, experts cited the gender pay gap (a recent study by the Chartered Management Institute and XpertHR found on average, women earned £12,000 less than their male counterparts, while just 26% of director-led roles are filled by women as opposed to 74% by men) as well as extortionate childcare costs, as two of the major issues facing women today.
I am an immediate misfit in the dynamic multiverse of people speaking in code. But at this USAID event led by the UNDP Alternative Finance Lab and AID:Tech, I wasn’t the only one.
For a young person who has spent his or her whole life living in a village in rural Africa, moving out is often desirable in theory, but daunting in practice. From the life histories of migrants in Tanzania it becomes clear that a number of important resources are needed, which are typically scarce in supply, particularly within the village. These include, among others, cash to pay the bus fare and a familiar face at destination, professional skills to find meaningful employment, and the life skills to operate in the anonymous, cash-based urban environment. And just because of the particular challenge of getting these in the village, the first move becomes so special.
In our previous post, we explored how migration from rural to urban areas is not a one-step move, but rather a dynamic lifelong process that expands and modifies migrants’ action space and opportunities to improve their life conditions, and how the attraction of secondary towns could be partly understood within this framework because of their role as “action space” enhancers.
Yet, defining precisely what constitutes a town or a city is tricky, to the point that Wittgenstein found it even a useful analogy with which to demonstrate definitional conundrums more broadly. “And how many houses or streets does it take for a town to be a town?”, he rhetorically asks his readers, while discussing at what point a language should be considered complete in his Philosophical Investigations.
At the same time, the distinction between towns and cities is intuitively unambiguous to most non-experts. Asking how migrants themselves see the difference may further help understand why they often move to towns, while the income levels and amenities are higher in the cities. According to the conversations we had with 75 migrants from rural Kagera, Tanzania, three dimensions stand out: vibrancy, monetization and anonymity.