Population Geography

Vaccination, HIV Awareness, Contraception, and Literacy in India




Our final post on social development in India takes on a miscellany of indicators. The first map, showing vaccination, is notable for extreme variability, with the rate varying from 81 percent in Tamil Nadu to 21 percent in Nagaland. As expected, the center-north lags well behind the south and far north. Low rates of vaccination here are a concern, as the area is one of the world’s few remaining reservoirs of the polio virus. New immunization campaigns, however, are underway. Also notable are the very high rates of vaccination in the southeast (Andhra Pradesh and especially Tamil Nadu), and the fact that West Bengal for once outpaces Punjab, Maharashtra, and Himachal Pradesh. Clearly, the various aspects of social development advance unevenly across the states of India.

The second map, charting women’s awareness of the HIV virus, also shows pronounced variability while conforming more closely to the typical pattern of development. Of particular note are the high levels of awareness in the northeastern states of Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram, generally poor areas hampered by insurgency and underdeveloped infrastructure, yet nonetheless undergoing pronounced cultural modernization. Owing to widespread outreach programs, HIV awareness has been increasing across India over the past five years. In July of 2010, a train dedicated to AIDS education streamed across northern India. According to one report, “Thousands of people from villages and towns in Assam turned up to see what the seven-coach ‘Red Ribbon Express’ train had to offer, as it chugged across the remote north eastern state earlier this month. 

The train, which has counseling and medical services, and a troupe of artists on board, is traveling across India to sensitize people about HIV.”

The third map, depicting modern contraceptive use, yields a few real oddities. Note the relatively low rates of contraception in Kerala and Goa, which are well known for their below-replacement fertility levels and strikingly high levels of general social development. The fact that roughly a third of Goa’s inhabitants are Catholic may influence this figure. In general, however, religion is not a good predictor of contraceptive use. India’s three predominately Christian (Protestant) states – Mizoram, Nagaland, and Meghalaya – have some of the highest and lowest rates of modern contraceptive use.

The final map, depicting literacy, is perhaps the most important of all. Here Kerala and Mizoram really shine, as does Himachal Pradesh in the northern Himalayan belt. Assam and Madhya Pradesh have surprisingly high figures, but the most unexpected feature of this map is the low showing of both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, seats of India’s most important information technology (IT) hubs, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Despite major investments, both states contain pockets of entrenched poverty and illiteracy, lagging well behind Tamil Nadu and Kerala in across-the-board social development. Some of the IT magnates of southern India, along with the country’s Human Resources Development Ministry, think that a soon-to-be-released $35 computer will help address the problem. “The hope is that an affordable computer will allow more students of all ages to engage in today’s digital world, increasing the country’s standards in education and also spurring economic stimulation.”

Tomorrow’s post will conclude our exploration of Indian development.

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Women’s Status and Sex Ratios in India



Several recent Geocurrents posts have addressed the status of women in India. Today we examine it more directly, using three indicators. The maps they generate, posted above, conform imperfectly to India’s basic geographical pattern of development, with several striking divergences.

The data used in the first map, “Currently Married Women Who Usually Participate in Household Decisions,” presumably refers to major household decisions, but even so the figures are distressingly low. The main bright spot is the extreme northeast, particularly the states of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Manipur. Female empowerment in this region reflects its tribal background and Southeast Asian cultural affiliations. Women’s authority is pronounced in some northeastern ethnic groups. Among the Khasi, the largest ethnic group of Meghalaya, descent is traced in the female line, and women traditionally manage household affairs. The Wikipedia notes that “the Khasi have an unusual dedication toward matrilineal customs.” Or as one recent article inimitably puts it, “In Meghalaya, women enjoy pivotal liberty & independence. Many look after their own importance & earn their livelihood & great success… Hence … women’s anticipation is evident in all its glory in Meghalaya’s unique women centric community.”

The other major oddity in this map is the poor ranking of West Bengal, lowest in the country. West Bengal is not a prosperous state, but it does reasonably well on many social indices, and it is noted for its intellectual traditions and left-leaning electorate. That it would rank substantially lower than Bihar on such an important indicator seems bizarre. Minor oddities include the average results of the generally progressive states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the high showing of Assam.

In the second map, “Ever-Married Women Who Have Ever Experienced Spousal Violence,” Bihar reverts to its accustomed last place. Several other features of this map are also familiar: the far north does well, particularly Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, as do Kerala and Goa in the south. Most unusual, however, is the strikingly low position of Tamil Nadu, where 41.9 percent of ever-married women are reported to have been victims of spousal violence. Another unexpected result is Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh besting Maharashtra. It is possible, however, that the data are inaccurate. Surveys respondents are not always fully representative, and there is often resistance to answering invasive questions. The answers solicited, moreover, reflect the skill and demeanor of those carrying out the research, which can vary from state to state.

In basic demographic matters such as sex ratio, by contrast, the data are solid. The sex ratio map posted here is a bit dated, but the basic patterns have not changed: the diffusion of sonograms and other technologies for fetal sex-selection has skewed sex ratios toward males across almost all of India. In 2001, only Kerala had more females than males; given the biologically determined longer life expectancy of women, this is what we would see everywhere were it not for deliberate interventions.

The most striking aspect of the sex ratio map is the location of the male-biased core zone, which straddles India’s basic developmental divide. The entire middle and upper Ganges basin forms the focal point of boy-preference, whether in the prosperous state of Punjab or in impoverished Uttar Pradesh. At a more local level, however, class and region interact in highly complex ways. According to one recent study, the lowest sex ratio in India – 707 females per 1000 males – is found among poor residents of the country’s wealthiest political subdivision, the Union Territory* of Chandigarh, which serves as the capital city of both Punjab and Haryana. Chandigarh, known as the “city beautiful” and famed for having been partially planned by the Swiss modernist Le Corbusier, is rated as India’s cleanest city, but its slums are rapidly expanding due to migration from surrounding rural areas.

India’s low sex ratios are a major national concern, leading to a number of proposed and enacted reforms. In July 2010, officials in Punjab announced that the number of girls (0 to 6 years of age) in the state per 1000 boys had increased from 798 in 2001 to 850 today. They attributed this gain to “the tough measures taken by the state government to ensure there was no violation of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (PNDT) Act” (which banned sex-selective abortion). Also of note is the “Save Our Daughters India Project,” launched on July 17, 2010 by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a former president of India.

*India’s highest-order political subdivisions are divided between its twenty-eight states, which are mapped here, and its seven much smaller and less autonomous union territories, which generally are not. In most cases, the data used to compile these maps did not include the union territories. A few maps, however, including the first two posted today, do show the National Capital Territory of Delhi, which is officially classified as a union territory.

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Media Exposure and Gender Disparities in India



One of the more unusual measurements of social development collected in the Indian National Family Health Survey and posted on the Wikipedia is that of “media awareness,” defined as the percentage of people in a given state “exposed to the media.” The data were collected separately for men and women, and providing a measure not just of exposure to the wider world but also of gender disparities.

The first map, showing male media exposure, fits India’s general developmental pattern relatively well. Southern India ranks high, especially the four states of the far south that speak Dravidian rather than Indo-European languages. The far northeast shows its typical variability. The high rates found in Mizoram correlate with that state’s elevated levels of literacy, attributable to the efforts of Protestant missionaries (roughly 75 percent of the state’s residents are Presbyterian). Manipur’s ranking, second highest in the country, is more difficult to explain. The map also shows some unusual features. In the progressive far north, Haryana comes in with an unexpectedly low figure. In the languishing north-central belt, the normal pattern is reversed, with Bihar and Uttar Pradesh outranking the states immediately to their south. The extremely low figures for Jharkhand, however, are not surprising. Jharkhand’s substantial mineral wealth inflates many of its developmental figures. But the state as a whole remains deeply impoverished, and its large tribal population (28 percent) includes many who live far beyond the reach of information technology.

The media exposure map for women is similar to that for men, although the disparity between “high” states and “low” states is more pronounced (note the adjusted numerical cut-off points in this map’s key). The overall impression is one of a reversed center-periphery dynamic, with high levels of television and radio exposure found in India’s extreme south, north, and east (Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, and Manipur) and low levels in the central areas. Jharkhand’s and Bihar’s female media exposure rates in particular are shockingly low (at 39 and 41 percent respectively).

The final map highlights the gender discrepancies revealed by the first two maps. Three central-northern states stand out; here as with other indicators, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan show low levels of female empowerment, part of why they fare so poorly in terms of general social development.

To be sure, increased media exposure is not a purely positive development. Environmentalists decry it as a spur to consumerism, while advocates of cultural diversity warn of increasing uniformity. Not surprisingly, the spread of radio, television, and video has been linked to the “flagging fortunes of traditional and folk media, [including] street theater.”

Meanwhile, as usual, globalization provides its own “difference engine.” The media streaming into rural villages is not necessarily of Indian origin. In the far northeast, residents of Manipur and especially Nagaland are apparently tuning in to South Korean frequencies. Journalist Renchano Humtsoe is worth quoting on this issue at some length:

“Korean culture is flooding into Nagaland. New trade treaties between India and Korea facilitated the exchange of Korean goods and enabled them to enter Nagaland with greater ease. Additionally, Nagas have long felt neglected by the central Indian government. This is especially the case with Naga youth. Many believe this lack of identity with central India informs Nagas’ embrace of Korean culture. […] Naga youth have now started to adapt Korean culture. Korean television channels, programs, movies, and clothes are popular among Naga youth. Korean companies are looking into investing in Nagaland. The Nagaland State Government has even taken steps to embrace Korean culture: it hosts an annual Indian-Korean cultural festival.”

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Electricity, Entertainment, and Birth Rates in India


Electricity provision is a major issue in India. Almost half of rural houses are not served, and the basic infrastructure is woefully inadequate, with transmission losses of over 30 percent. According to the Wikipedia, electricity theft “amounts to 1.5 per cent of India’s GDP.” To be sure, India is responding, investing in conventional power as well as wind and solar generated electricity. In 2007, the Indian government optimistically announced plans to provide power to the entire population by 2012. But a July 3, 2010 article on electrification in Bihar concluded that progress to date has been “dismal,” noting that “out of the total target of 5,65,000 … household connections in 2010-11, the BSEB (Bihar State Electricity Board)has energized only 4,310 households till May this year.”

The map of electricity provision, compiled from survey data posted in Wikipedia, conforms relatively well to India’s basic development divide. Bihar, not surprisingly, lags behind all other Indian states, while Kerala and Goa in the south and Himachal Pradesh and Punjab in the far north come in with their usual high figures. The far northeast, especially Mizoram, fares better than usual, in part because its mountainous terrain facilitates hydroelectricity generation. In India’s poor north-central belt, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh perform above expectation, although several reports have claimed that Madhya Pradesh is failing to electrify its more remote villages. Still, it is notable that this poor state (with a 2006 per capita GDP of only $433) has made better progress on a number of other developmental fronts than its neighbors in the Hindi-speaking belt.*

The second map, showing households with television sets, corresponds still more closely to India’s developmental divide. All states in the center-north show low rates of ownership – with Bihar again coming in last – whereas all states in the south and far north exhibit relatively high rates. The “variable” far northeast, however, reports relatively low and uniform levels of television ownership.

The real standout on the map of television ownership is Andhra Pradesh, which places third in India despite being slightly below average in terms of per capita GDP. High rates of television ownership in Andhra Pradesh correlate with a particularly vibrant local entertainment industry. Hyderabad, the state’s capital, produces more feature-length films per year than any other Indian city, and follows only Mumbai (“Bollywood”) in movie revenues. Hyderabad’s films are in Telugu, Andhra Pradesh’s official language – giving rise to the nickname “Tollywood.” Tollywood movies are often dubbed into other languages, and many are distributed internationally. The local audience, however, is key. Telugu is India’s third most widely spoken language; with more than 75 million speakers, it ranks 15th in the world, ahead of Vietnamese, Korean, and Italian.

The Telugu film industry has long had a reputation for being more disciplined, wholesome, and conservative than Bollywood, which is infamous for its ties to the criminal underworld. Evidently, times are changing in Hyderabad. According to a recent story in the Deccan Chronicle, “Now, whether it is the blind aping of Bollywood or exposure to ‘international’ lifestyles, the new breed of Telugu stars are experimenting with social narcotics.” Cocaine, evidently, is the drug of choice among wayward Tollywood celebrities.

As we saw previously, Andhra Pradesh’s fertility rate of 1.8 is extraordinarily low considering the state’s modest economic standing. Some observers have suggested a linkage between reduced fertility and access to mass electronic entertainment. According to a 2009 CNN report, “India’s new health and welfare minister came out with an idea on how to tackle the population issue: Bring electricity to every Indian village so that people would watch television until late at night and therefore be too tired to make babies.” The American social scientists Robert Jensen and Emily Oster have argued that cable television reduces fertility in a different manner. Television shows, and soap operas in particular, they argue, enhance female status by showing rural women the more open and less sexist world of modern, urban, middle-class India.Unlike their counterparts in Bihar, most poor people in Andhra Pradesh are plugged into such modernity. To the extent that they emulate the modes of life that they see depicted on the screen, this may help account for Andhra Pradesh’s strikingly small families.

* Haryana is Hindi-speaking, but it developmental indicators are similar to those of neighboring Punjabi-speaking Punjab, to which it was once joined.

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India’s Demographic Divide


On July 12, 2010, the Telegraph reported that India will surpass China as the world’s most populous country by 2026, its population rising to 1.6 billion by 2050. According to the Indian demographic study referenced by the article, continuing growth threatens the country’s economic development, requiring new approaches to population control. The report linked economic insecurity among India’s 500 million poor people to high rates of teenage pregnancy, which in turn keeps the fertility rate elevated.

Demographers agree that India will become the world’s most populous country within the next few decades, although the exact date at which it will bypass China is impossible to predict. India’s current total fertility rate (TFR) is 2.72, far higher than China’s 1.76. Whether continuing population growth in India will hamper its economy, however, is a matter of hot debate, as the Telegraph article makes clear. It is also uncertain whether new approaches to family planning are necessary. As the chart above shows, India’s fertility rate has been declining at a relatively consistent rate since roughly 1970, despite shifts in national demographic policy.

Although India’s population is continuing to expand, it is misleading to contend that the country as a whole has an unsustainably high birth rate. As the map above shows, by 2006 all southern Indian states had birthrates below replacement level. The large southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu reported total fertility rates of 1.8—well below those of the United States, France, or Sweden. Far northern India is also rapidly transitioning to lower birthrates, and even the relatively poor state of West Bengal is approaching population stability, with a fertility rate of only 2.3 in 2005-2006.

To the extent that India still suffers from excess births, the problem is limited to the languishing states of the north-center. Bihar’s TFR, although declining, still registered at a problematic 4.0 in 2005-2006. Considering the fact that this impoverished and corruption-ridden state has more than 82 million living in an area smaller than the state of Ohio, this is a high figure indeed. In July 2010, Bihar announced that it would implement a new population control policy, to be formulated in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund. Of particularly concern is the fact that 60 per cent of women in Bihar become pregnant by the age of 20.

India’s birthrate divide will likely intensify its economic division. The low-fertility states of southern and far northern India, already more prosperous than the center-north, will soon be reaping a “demographic dividend,” defined as “a rise in the rate of economic growth due to a rising share of working-age people in a population. This usually occurs late in the demographic transition when the fertility rate falls and the youth dependency rate declines.” While north-central states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh struggle with surging numbers of children, the more prosperous states will be able to surge further ahead.

A heightened economic divide across India, however, will probably result in increasing migration, which could exacerbate local cultural tensions. Internal migration is already changing the cultural dynamics of several India states. A 2009 report showing that the proportion of Sikhs in Punjab had fallen below 60 percent, due mainly to Hindu migration from poorer states, caused considerable concern in the Sikh Punjabi community. In the near future, such controversies are likely to multiply across the more prosperous parts of India.

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India and China: The World’s Demographic Giants

It is common knowledge that China and India are the two most populous countries in the world. What is less commonly appreciated is the fact that they demographically tower over almost every other sovereign state. Whereas China has some 1.3 billion inhabitants and India is closing in on 1.2 billion, only two other countries have more than 200 million people: the United States (309 million) and Indonesia (234 million).

One of the most illustrative portrayals of India and China’s demographic dominance is a recent Wikipedia map with the awkward title of “Largest World Subdivisions Population.” It depicts the 51 most populous political subdivisions in the world, 39 of which are located in India and China. The number 51 was evidently selected in order to include Texas. If 53 selections had been made, India would have had two more entries. The only other countries with more than one subdivision on the list are Indonesia (East Java and Central Java), Ethiopia (Oromia and Amhara), Bangladesh (Dhaka and Rajshahi), Pakistan (Punjab and Sindh) and the United States (California and Texas). The top 21 entries, moreover, are all in either India or China (with England coming in at 22). (Note: the cartographer has neglected to include the two Bangladeshi subdivisions on the map. Several other deviations between the map and the list also occur.)

In terms of their basic geographical scope as well as their population, India and China are comparable to Europe as a whole rather that to any given European country. India also shows levels of cultural and economic diversity equal to that found in the European Union. But because India is a single country, such diversity is often overlooked.

Beginning next week, Geocurrents will explore Indian diversity, presenting a series of state-level maps on the social and economic development of the country.

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Migration and Diplomatic Tensions In Costa Rica

Nicaragua, the poorest country in continental North America by a good margin, sends immigrants not only northward into Mexico and the United States but also southward into Costa Rica. The economic disparity along Nicaragua’s lightly policed southern border is steep and Costa Rica, unlike Nicaragua, is known for its political stability, effective government, and high levels of social well-being. Nicaraguans have been moving south for some time, the flow accelerating with every natural and political disaster at home. Most estimates put the number of people of Nicaraguan origin in Costa Rica at about 10 percent of the total population; roughly half are undocumented.

Costa Ricans tend to disparage “Nicas,” blaming them for crime and stressed social services. In 2005, the mauling death of a suspected Nicaraguan thief by two dogs generated a diplomatic episode. Reports claimed that Costa Rican bystanders, including members of the police, simply watched as the animals ripped the man apart. A few hard-core Costa Rican nationalists defended the attack. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report on the incident is worth quoting at length:

“According to the State of Nicaragua, ‘in certain sectors there has arisen a marked climate of verbal violence, intolerance, and xenophobia as is apparent from publications produced by groups interested in stirring up hate and even violence against Nicaraguans in Costa Rica.’ … [I]n the days following the death of Mr. Canda Mairena a number of ‘jokes’ and xenophobic displays appeared on different Internet web sites … An electronic mail message dated November 11, 2005 says, ‘Due to the recent events of bravery and heroism that showed that the dog is the Costa Rican’s best friend (today more than ever), all of the below signed wish to present to the legislative assembly a bill to change the yiguirro [the national bird of Costa Rica] thanks to the heroic dogs Oso and Hunter “Rottweller” (sic), who took the initiative, cast fear aside, and redefined Costa Rican culture and valor against the invasion of the neighbors to the north.’”

In 2006, Costa Rica implemented a stringent immigration reform. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, “Costa Rica’s new immigration law is aimed largely at those who profit from undocumented workers. It makes human trafficking a crime punishable by as much as six years in prison. And it significantly increases fines on Costa Ricans caught employing illegal immigrants — to $3,600 per violation, up from as little as $10…”

Costa Rica’s current immigration news story concerns China rather than Nicaragua. Some 600 Chinese workers recently came to Costa Rica to work on a new national sports stadium, financed by Beijing as a favor for Costa Rica dropping Taiwanese recognition in 2007. As Chinese construction firms subsequently moved on to build an apartment complex in San Jose, the call went out for more Chinese workers. Costa Rica’s Ministry of Labor countered that there are plenty of qualified Costa Ricans who could be employed instead. On June 27, 2010, Costa Rica’s ambassador to Beijing lodged an official protest against Chinese pressure on his country to allow in the additional workers.

Many Costa Ricans are apparently irritated with China. As one commenter put it, “With roughly 1.5 billion people the next thing will be the waters being over-fished and no sharks anywhere to be found, which is already happening anyway. All for a free stadium. … Time to tell them ‘a Dios muchaco’, and apologize to/make friends again with the Taiwanese, who were generous without all of the strings attached.”

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Regional Economic Disparities and Migration in Mexico


On the global scale, Mexico is a middle-income country, a fact lost on most Americans. According to the IMF, it ranks 60 out of 184 in per capita Gross Domestic Product. Measured in purchasing power parity (PPP), Mexico produces roughly $13,600* worth of goods and services per person per year, a figure comparable to those of Malaysia, Lebanon, and Turkey. While substantially lower than that of the United States ($46,300), much less than those of Luxembourg ($78,300) or Qatar ($83,800), Mexico’s per person output towers over those of truly destitute countries, such as Zimbabwe ($355) or the Democratic Republic of Congo ($332). (Per capita GDP, as discussed previously in Geocurrents, is a vexed measurement of wealth and poverty, but it does give a general sense of economic development.)

Mexico’s economic output varies substantially from one region to another. The country’s wealthiest subdivision, the Federal District, produces more than six times the value of goods and services per capita as the poorest state, Chiapas. The basic geographical pattern is one of relative prosperity in much of the core area of Mexico City and through most of the north, coupled with much lower levels of economic activity in the south, particularly in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Guerrero. But even Mexico’s poorest states are relatively well off when compared with nearby countries further to the south; the per capita GDP of Chiapas is more than three times larger than that of Nicaragua. Overall, Mexico’s economic figures are comparable to those of Central and Eastern Europe, as is evident in the chart posted just below (the chart takes a sampling of Mexican states, ranging from the richest to the poorest, and pairs them with European countries of roughly equal output).

Relatively high per capita GDP can coexist with widespread poverty if income distribution is highly skewed or if profits are monopolized by groups from outside of the region. Such a disconnection between per capita GDP and basic economic wellbeing is especially notable in two Mexican states, Quintana Roo and Campeche, both located on the Yucatan Peninsula. These states have an elevated rank in regard to both economic production and, as is evident in the 2000 CIMMYT maps posted above, deprivation. The explanation seems to lie in the states’ particular patterns of economic development. Quintana Roo has profited massively from the mega resorts of the Cancun area, but the fruits of such development had not spread widely by the year 2000. The same seems to be true in regard to the profits flowing from the oil industry of Campeche. It would be interesting to see the extent of poverty reduction in these two states over the past ten years.

Because Mexico is so much more prosperous than its southern neighbors, it attracts large numbers of Central American immigrants, most of them arriving illegally. As a 2008 WorldFocus article reported, “According to Mexico’s National Institute of Migration, 2 million documented and undocumented cross Mexico’s southern border a year. The majority of these undocumented immigrants are Guatemaltecos, followed by Hondurans, Salvadorians, and … Nicaraguans.” Many of these immigrants are ultimately headed to the United States, but a substantial number seek work in Mexico, much closer to home. Mexico has often treated its own undocumented workers harshly. In late June 2010, the Mexican government announced a new program, dubbed “Summer 2010,” designed to increase patrols along both its northern and southern boundaries, but also to provide humanitarian assistance for would-be border-jumpers. According to a recent article, “during this special summer operation, immigration officials will try to dissuade migrants from continuing their journey, insofar as they will be exposed to dehydration due to long walks in temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius [104 °F].

*In nominal terms (measured in currency equivalents rather than purchasing power), Mexico’s per capita GDP is only about $8,100, but it still ranks 61 out of 181 countries, Quintana Roo, Campeche

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Misconceptions About Mexico’s Birth Rate



In the American immigration debate, the point is often made on talk radio that Mexicans stream into the United States because their birth rate is so high. Mainstream sources sometimes make the same argument. In June, 2010, Britain’s Prince Charles warnedabout the “cultural pressures that keep the global birth rate high,” arguing that the same is true in “Mumbai, Cairo or Mexico City; wherever you look, the world’s population is increasing fast.”

The population of Mexico City is certainly increasing, but not because the country’s birth rate is elevated. Mexico’s total fertility rate (TFR), or the number of children born to an average woman, is actually very close to 2.1—essentially the same as that of the United States. If Mexico’s population continues to expand, it is because its fertility drop is so recent. At its current birth rate, the Mexican population will soon stabilize even without emigration to the United States. As a developing country, Mexico is hardly alone in this situation. Mauritius’s TFR is 1.9, Thailand’s is 1.8, and Trinidad and Tobago’s is 1.6, all well below replacement level.

In Mexico, fertility patterns vary significantly from state to state, as is to be expected. The map that I have constructed above using demographic data from the 2000 census shows a distinct regional pattern, with relatively high fertility rates in the south contrasting sharply with lower rates in both the north and center (including greater Mexico City). The correlation with socio-economic development is marked, as is made clear by comparing this map with that of Mexico’s Human Development Index. But even Mexico’s least developed states have relatively low birth rates by historical and global standards, with only Guerrero exceeding 3.0 in 2000.

Urbanization as well as development correlates with reduced fertility. Consider the state of Mexico, the country’s most populous political subdivision, with more than 14 million inhabitants. This state encompasses many of the poorer parts of Greater Mexico City, and thus has a per capita level of economic output substantially lower the national average ($8,900 for the country of Mexico vs. $6,200 for the state of Mexico, in nominal GDP). Yet the state’s birthrate is well below the national average, having been under the replacement level even in 2000. The state of Mexico also sends a disproportionate number of emigrants to the United States, “making up about 75.7% of the total Mexican population that migrates,”according to the unsupported figures given in the Wikipedia. (Intriguingly, Mexican-Americans have significantly higher birth rates than Mexicans. In 2007, Hispanics in general in the United States had a TFR of 2.9 in 2007, as compared to 2.1 for blacks, 1.9 for Asians, and 1.86 for whites.)

At the global scale as well, Prince Charles’s insinuation that contemporary urban surges in the Third World result from elevated birthrates is misleading. Cities have fed on migration from the countryside since the dawn of urbanization 5,000 years ago; before the 1800s, death rates in urban areas almost always exceeded birth rates. Although modern methods of hygiene now allow cities to sustain themselves, urban fertility rates usually remain substantially lower than rural fertility rates. If global demographic stabilization is the goal, one should champion rather than disparage urbanization. Of course there are other grounds for opposing the further expansion of such megacities as Mumbai, Cairo, or Mexico City, but urban population growth should not blind us to the dramatic downward shift in many developing countries’ overall reproductive rates.

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Migration, Mining, and Insurgency in Eastern Indonesia

As we saw last Monday, a tenuous peace came to the Indonesian province of Aceh in 2005 when it was granted a special autonomous status in 2005. The same cannot be said of Papua, Indonesia’s largest province, located on the opposite side of the country. Papua was granted a measure of local autonomy in 2001, when its name was changed from “Irian Jaya.” In 2005, the Indonesian government took the further step of forming the Papuan People’s Council, composed of tribal chiefs charged with upholding local customs. Despite these measures, Papua’s long-simmering insurgency continues to generate bloodshed. In late March 2010, Papuan separatists ambushed a contingent of Indonesian soldiers in Mulia district, and in January 2010, four police officers and five civilians, including an American, were injured in a shootout in the Timika region. In July 2009, an Australian civilian was killed in Timika, a particularly restive part of Papua.

The Papuan rebellion dates back to 1965, when the OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or The Free Papua Movement) was founded to contest Indonesian control over the western half of the island of New Guinea. Indonesia gained Papua through a kind of secondary imperialism. In the late 1800s, the Dutch expanded their colonial holdings to the east of their Indonesian empire, partitioning the massive island of New Guinea with Britain and Germany. Culturally part of Melanesia, Papua had little in common with Indonesia, as the Dutch well knew. When Indonesia gained independence in 1949, the Netherlands retained western New Guinea, eventually preparing it for independence. Indonesia wanted the territory, however, and threatened to invade. The United States pressured the Netherlands to negotiate, resulting in the Indonesian military occupation of Papua in 1963, and annexation in 1969.

The Timika region is especially troubled for two reasons. First, it is the gateway to the Grasberg mine, owned mostly by Freeport McMoRan Corporation, based in Phoenix, Arizona. A massive open pit some 14,000 feet (4,500 meters) above sea level, Grasberg is the largest gold mine and third largest copper mine in the world, employing more than 19,000 people. Although Timika is situated some distance from Grasberg in the adjacent lowlands, it is the largest commercial center in the vicinity, with Papua’s largest airport (boasting a runway more than a mile long). The mine and associated businesses bring significant income to Timika, which claims the best hotel and golf course in Indonesian New Guinea. But Grasberg is also grotesquely polluting, generating 230,000 tons of tailings every day. Mine waste flows down the Aikwa River into the lowlands near Timika, where it is deposited in a broad swath of braided channels. Sedimentation and heavy metals have destroyed most of the river’s wildlife.

Timika’s second cause of strife is transmigration. The Indonesian government has long operated a huge subsidized scheme to move Javanese and Madurese peasants to the lightly populated “outer islands.” Although this official migration program was scaled back in 2000, migrants continue to pour into Papua. Roughly half of the inhabitants of the province were born in other parts of Indonesia. The city of Timika has boomed, as have the platted rural settlements in its environs (see the Google Earth images above). By 2002, Timika was large enough to host a locally infamous red-light district located ten kilometers outside town, staffed largely by Javanese immigrants. (In the pie charts in the map above, the brown areas indicated the proportions of the local populations composed of migrants.)

The indigenous people of Papua see few benefits in such developments. Many locals think that their lands and resources are being stripped away to benefit outsiders. The small measures of provincial autonomy granted by Jakarta mean little in such circumstances. As a result, the insurgency continues to simmer. The OPM is neither well funded nor well armed, however, allowing the Indonesian military to retain a firm grip on the region.

The recent violence in Timika has barely been noted in the global press. In fact, Timika itself is barely noticed by the outside world. Internet searches yield little other than information about travel arrangements, the Timika airport, and the Sheraton Hotel. Tinika does not even have a Wikipedia article of its own. Its airport does, however—a piece largely devoted to chronicling a 1996 attempt by the Indonesian military to rescue hostages held by the OPM. The operation went awry, resulting in sixteen deaths.

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Russia’s Changing Demography

In August 2009, Russia recorded 1,000 more births than deaths, the first month of natural population increase in more than 15 years. Russian officials, worried about their country’s declining population, were pleased that their efforts to encourage childbearing were showing signs of success. Overall, however, demography is still a major concern for Russian nationalists.

The Wikipedia map of the Russian Federation’s natural population growth (excluding, in other words, immigration and emigration) shows some intriguing patterns. Most striking is the fact that areas of relatively rapid growth (dark green on the map) have large non-Russian populations. Russians constitute roughly 4 percent of Chechnya’s population, 7 percent of Dagestan’s, 20 percent of Tuva’s, and 41 percent of Sakha’s. Russians are more prevalent in the demographically expanding areas of western Siberia (Tyumen, Khantia-Mansia, and Yamalia), but Tyumen is still one of Russia’s most ethnically diverse oblasts, and Khantia-Mansia and Yamalia both have large non-Russian minorities (34 percent and 41 percent respectively). The Russian heartland of western European Russia, on the other hand, shows the largest excess of deaths over births. The proportion of Russians in the federation, currently at 80 percent, is thus declining – much to the consternation of the Russian nationalists.

Patterns of natural population growth and decline also correlate with patterns of economic production, but in a more complicated pattern. Higher fertility rates are evident in both the richest and poorest parts of the country. Dagestan, Chechnya, and Tuva, with low levels of per capita gross regional product, show positive population growth rates largely because their fertility levels are high; the average woman in Chechnya, for example, can be expected to give birth to 3.4 children. Russia’s richest areas, such as the oil and natural gas producing Khantia-Mansia and Yamalia, and mineral-rich Sakha, are also demographically expanding. This pattern is most clearly evident in Tyumen Oblast, the richest region of Russia, with a level of per capita economic production seven times the national average. In 2007, Tyumen’s birth rate of 14.2 per 1,000 people comfortably exceeded its death rate of 9 per 1,000. Contributing to its population growth was its relatively low mortality rate; in 2008 in Russia as a whole, the death rate was 14.6 per 1,000 people.

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Anti-Immigrant Violence and Organized Crime in Italy

On January 10, 2009, the front page of the New York Times carried an article entitled “Race Riots Grip Italian Town and Mafia Is Suspect.” In two days of violence, 53 people were injured, including 18 members of the police, 14 local residents, and 21 immigrants. Most of the immigrants involved in the riots were sub-Saharan Africans recruited to pick fruit in the citrus groves of Calabria, the “toe” of Italy. Working conditions in the orchards are reported to be dismal, with immigrants often being cheated out of their meager wages. Many locals resent the migrants, although the local economy has come to depend on their labor. According to the Wikipedia article on the incident, “Attacks against the migrant workers included setting up a roadblock and hunting down stray Africans in the streets of Rosarno. Some of the crop-pickers were shot; others beaten with metal bars or wooden clubs.” As the casualty figure show, however, violence occurred on both sides of the divide; migrants burned cars, smashed windows, and threw stones at townspeople. As the fighting subsided, more than 1,000 African workers were shipped off to detention centers elsewhere in southern Italy. On January 12, the United Nations expressed deep concern about racism in Italy, while the Italian government began investigating the incident.

Immigration tension is common through much of Europe, but the situation in Calabria seems to be especially severe due to the role of organized crime. Crime syndicates control much of the region’s economy, including the fruit industry, and they have engaged in particularly brutal and deceitful “labor management” practices. The Times headline errs, however, in pointing its finger at the “Mafia.” Strictly speaking, the Mafia is a Sicilian group; the crime syndicate that runs much of Calabria is the ‘Ndrangheta. As the map shows, one finds distinctive criminal organizations in different regions of southern Italy.

Organized crime is of much greater geographical significance than this one example would indicate, both in Italy and in the world as a whole. According to an October 23, 2007 New York Times article, organized crime is now the largest sector of the Italian economy, accounting for some seven percent of the country’s total economic production. The prevalence of such activity in the south is one of the reasons why the Italian political party called the Lega Nord (“Northern League”) wants autonomy if not actual independence for northern Italy, a region that it calls Padania (see map). (The Lega Nord is also known for its stridently anti-immigrant views. One prominent party spokesman argued that the recent rioting in Calabria resulted from “too much tolerance” of migrant populations.)

Organized crime, of course, is hardly limited to southern Italy. As Misha Glenny shows in his powerful book McMafia: A Journey through the Global Criminal Underworld (Knopf 2008), its presence is nearly ubiquitous. An essential website on the topic, Havocscope Black Markets (http://www.havocscope.com/) values the global illicit market at over one trillion dollars. Yet such figures are routinely excluded from our economic calculations. When we measure a given country’s GDP, we usually look not at the “total value of goods and services produced ” — despite what we tell ourselves we are doing — but rather at the total valuation that is accessible to that country’s government. We tend to think of “crime” as one category and “economy” as another, downplaying the substantial overlap. Such myopia stems in part from our tendency to exaggerate the power of the state, seeing those aspects of life that escape state control as somehow aberrant and temporary.

The disconnection between licit and illicit economic activities is abundantly demonstrated in the CIA World Factbook. Consider its listing of Colombia’s main exports: “petroleum, coffee, coal, nickel, emeralds, apparel, bananas, cut flowers.” There is no mention here, or anywhere else in the CIA’s “Colombia economy” report, of cocaine or of any other illegal products. Can one actually understand Colombia’s economy without delving into such matters?I don’t think so.

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Ethnic Rioting in Suriname

Suriname, Population Density

In late December 2009, anti-Brazilian rioting broke out in the town of Albina in northeastern Suriname after a Brazilian man allegedly stabbed and killed a local resident. The ethnic violence grew so intensive that the Brazilian Foreign Ministry was forced to send in two aircraft to airlift its citizens from the riot-scarred town.

The recent ethnic violence in Suriname stems in part from the country’s low population density and abundant natural resources, which have attracted numerous migrants from neighboring Brazil.Over the past decade or so, as many as 40,000 Brazilians have moved to Suriname, a country with fewer than half a million citizens. Many if not most Brazilians in Suriname work as small-scale gold miners. Gold mining in the region is typically environmentally destructive and it often results in clashes between miners and indigenous peoples. Mining areas in northern Brazil are also noted for their generally lawless conditions. At the national level, political leaders in both Suriname and neighboring Guyana have long feared that their countries risk becoming economic adjuncts of their vastly larger southern neighbor.

Albina sits near the border of the even more sparsely populated territory of French Guiana, which holds only some 221,000 people in its 32,000 square miles (an area roughly the size of Ireland). French Guiana has also attracted Brazilian immigrants in recent years, but it does not have the same concerns about losing its national identity – largely because it does not have one. French Guiana is not, as its common name might imply, a mere “territory” of France. It is rather a French department, as much a part of France as Hawaii is part of the United States (as such, it is more properly referred to not as “French Guiana” but rather as Guyane, its official name). France is thus, in small part, a South American country, just as the European Union extends well beyond Europe’s boundaries to include this sizable chunk of the Western Hemisphere.France is also a Caribbean country and an Indian Ocean country, but that is a matter for a later posting.

(Wikipedia Map below)

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