Thanks to Remi Jedwab for sharing his work on the demographics behind rapid urbanization in low income countries. Jedwab presented two working papers:
Demography, Urbanization and Development: Rural Push, Urban Pull…and Urban Push? (with Luc Christiaensen & Marina Gindelsky)
Malthusian Dynamics and the Rise of the Poor Megacity (with Dietrich Vollrath)
Today, cities in poor countries see in-migration rates that are similar to those experienced by fast growing cities in 19th century Industrial Europe. However, unlike 19th century Europe, Jedwab finds that today’s urbanizing countries are characterized by high fertility and low mortality. This means that today’s rapidly urbanizing countries have higher rates of natural urban increase. That is, people in today’s fast growing cities are having greater numbers of children compared to people who lived in the fast growing "killer" cities of Industrial Europe—cities that were characterized by low fertility and high mortality.
The combination of historically typical in-migration rates and higher rates of natural urban increase produces very high urban growth rates and unprecedented levels of urban congestion. Unlike urban growth that is characterized predominately by rural migrants responding to economic opportunities in cities, urban growth characterized predominately by urban natural increase can result in “urbanization without growth” — or at least a weaker association between urbanization and economic prosperity than we’ve observed in the past.
To learn more about Jedwab’s work, see the working papers above and find the slides from his presentation here.
Assistant Professor of Economics and International Affairs, George Washington University
Remi Jedwab is an Assistant Professor of Economics and International Affairs at George Washington University. His main field of research is development economics, though his work also has strong urban economics and political economy themes. Some of the issues he has studied include urbanization and structural transformation, the economic effects of transportation infrastructure, and agricultural and economic development in Africa.