Thursday, November 07, 2019

Demography and Central America Migration

Longtime readers will know I've done work on demographics of immigration to the United States, which is chronically understudied. Therefore I am always happy to see it placed front and center, such as in this piece by Michael Clemens and Jimmy Graham from the Center for Global Development.

The Northern Triangle has recently begun to fall off a demographic cliff. There will be fewer youths entering the labor market in the region in years to come than since the 1950s. In roughly a decade, migration pressure is likely to fall sharply as a result. Much of today’s pressure will naturally ease.
This sounds good, except for the fact that my dad took a look at the numbers and they're wrong.
The problem with their analysis is that the data simply don't show what they say. The United Nations demographers' medium projections show that the youthful, migration-age populations in Guatemala and Honduras will continue to increase in number for at least another decade, and after that we will see only a gradual slowdown. It is true that the number of youths in El Salvador will be a bit smaller in 2030 than now, but the change is not dramatic. There is no current evidence that any of the three Northern Triangle countries are falling off a demographic cliff. As much as I would have liked for their story to be true, the data simply don't paint the picture they have put out there.
So no cliff.

They note how the same happened with Mexico, which my dad and I pointed out back in 2010 in our book Irresistible Forces:
[T]he end of the demographic fit should also mean that the Mexican labor pool, in particular, will be smaller, thereby increasing the chances that a given individual in Mexico will find employment in Mexico (p. 89). 
The other two facts the authors point out are the efficacy of work visas (i.e. legal avenues for immigration) and the complexity of aid. Some aid can, in fact, increase migration.
National poverty contributes to the lack of local opportunity for the girl, certainly, but her own family’s emergence from poverty is part of what places migration within their reach. This is why, as poor countries get rich, emigration typically rises at first, only falling later.
This is true, and is related to what I just wrote about yesterday with regard to Guatemala.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP