In societies still stuck in the Malthusian trap lower death rates result in population growth that lowers living standards and forces migrations in cities. Lower fertility rates are desperately needed to end the cycle where all increased economic output goes to feed a growing population.
Improving water supplies in rural African villages may have negative knock-on effects and contribute to increased poverty, new research published today [14 November] has found.
Rural development initiatives across the developing world are designed to improve community wellbeing and livelihoods but a study of Ethiopian villages by researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Addis Ababa in Africa has shown that this can lead to unforeseen consequences caused by an increase in the birth rate in the absence of family planning.
The study, published in PLOS ONE and funded by the Leverhulme Trust, also established that resulting population pressures encourage young adults to move to urban areas. Such urbanisation in less developed countries concentrates poverty in cities which already have stretched public services. Projections for Ethiopia, currently one of the least urbanised countries in the world, indicate that the proportion of people living in urban centres will double over the next 40 years, from 17 per cent in 2010 to 38 per cent in 2050.
Academics argue that the results of this study highlight the need for policy-makers to take into account this link between development projects and changes in demography, especially as over 90 per cent of urbanisation is taking place in the developing world.
The additional babies surviving to adulthood do not have enough farm land to farm. So out of desperation (really, gotta eat) they head to the cities looking for work. There is an upside to the urban migration: The economics of cities provide incentives for smaller families. If more rural dwellers moved to the cities fertility rates might go down.
Rural development initiatives across the developing world are designed to improve community well-being and livelihoods. However they may also have unforeseen consequences, in some cases placing further demands on stretched public services. In this paper we use data from a longitudinal study of five Ethiopian villages to investigate the impact of a recent rural development initiative, installing village-level water taps, on rural to urban migration of young adults. Our previous research has identified that tap stands dramatically reduced child mortality, but were also associated with increased fertility. We demonstrate that the installation of taps is associated with increased rural-urban migration of young adults (15–30 years) over a 15 year period (15.5% migrate out, n = 1912 from 1280 rural households). Young adults with access to this rural development intervention had three times the relative risk of migrating to urban centres compared to those without the development.
UC Davis economic historian Gregory Clark, in his book A Farewell To Alms, makes the case that in Africa, still stuck in the Malthusian Trap, technological advances just increase the number of poor. Until fertility rates in Africa plummet that will continue to be the case.
Prosperity, however, has not come to all societies. Material consumption in some countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, is now well below the preindustrial norm. Countries such as Malawi or Tanzania would be better off in material terms had they never had contact with the industrialized world and instead continued in their preindustrial state. Modern medicine, airplanes, gasoline, computers—the whole technological cornucopia of the past two hundred years—have succeeded there in producing among the lowest material living standards ever experienced. These African societies have remained trapped in the Malthusian era, where technological advances just produce more people, and living standards are driven down to subsistence. But modern medicine has reduced the material minimum required for subsistence to a level far below that of the Stone Age.
In medieval England living standards were twice as high as in Africa today. That's because death from disease limited population density in medieval England.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2012 November 19 09:16 PM|