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Demographic and Economic Pressure on Emigration Out of Africa

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  • Timothy J. Hatton
  • Jeffrey G. Williamson

Abstract

Two of the main forces driving European emigration in the late nineteenth century were real wage gaps between sending and receiving regions and demographic booms in the low-wage sending regions (directly augmenting the supply of potential movers as well as indirectly making already-measured employment conditions less attractive). These two features are even more prominent in Africa today, but do or can Africans respond to them with the same elasticity as in the days of 'free' migration? Our new estimates of net migration and labor market performance for the countries of sub-Saharan Africa suggest that exactly the same forces are at work driving African across-border migration today. Rapid growth in the cohort of young potential migrants, population pressure on the resource base, and poor economic performance are the main forces driving African migration. A century ago, more modest demographic forces in Europe were accompanied by strong catching-up economic growth in the low-wage emigrant regions, followed by a slowdown in already-modest demographic growth. Yet, migrations were still mass. In Africa today, economic growth has faltered, its economies have fallen further behind the high-wage OECD leaders, and there is a demographic speed up in the making. Our estimates suggest that the pressure on emigration out of Africa will intensify, manifested in part by a growing demand for entrance into high-wage OECD labor markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy J. Hatton & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2001. "Demographic and Economic Pressure on Emigration Out of Africa," NBER Working Papers 8124, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8124
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Angus Deaton, 1999. "Commodity Prices and Growth in Africa," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 23-40, Summer.
    2. Collins, William J & O'Rourke, Kevin Hjortshøj & Williamson, Jeffrey G, 1997. "Were Trade and Factor Mobility Substitutes in History?," CEPR Discussion Papers 1661, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Bevan, David & Collier, Paul & Gunning, Jan Willem, 1999. "The Political Economy of Poverty, Equity, and Growth: Nigeria and Indonesia," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195209860.
    4. Hatton, Timothy J. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1998. "The Age of Mass Migration: Causes and Economic Impact," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195116519.
    5. Richard B. Freeman & Remco Oostendorp, 2000. "Wages Around the World: Pay Across Occupations and Countries," NBER Working Papers 8058, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Paul Collier & Jan Willem Gunning, 1999. "Why Has Africa Grown Slowly?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 3-22, Summer.
    7. Lucas, Robert E B, 1985. "Migration amongst the Botswana," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 95(378), pages 358-382, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics

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