Population Size, Poverty and Migration: The Experience of Brazil

Alexandre Gori Maia , Universidade Estadual de Campinas

Developing countries have faced a sharp urbanization in recent decades, which has been led by intense rural-urban migration flows. But why do people have preferred crowded urban locations rather than been more evenly spread across the territory? And what are the prospects for those left-behind populations that were trapped in the poorest and sparsely populated areas? We analyze the case of Brazil, highlighting the non-linear relationships between population size, poverty and internal migration. We use nationally representative data from the Demographic Census and gravitational models of migration, analyzing how migration flows are affected by push and pull forces in origin and destination. We highlight the existence of a U-shaped relationship between population size in origin and out-migration, which implies that migration rates tend to be substantially higher in the least populous locations. We also highlight that poverty is one the main push factors of out-migration in origin, but its impacts are not unidirectional. While the share of poor in origin tends to increase out-migration, the intensity of poverty, a measure of how poor people are, tends to restrain out-migration. The first main implication of our results is that there may be a minimum population size threshold, below which migration rates may sharply increase, probably due to the lack of prospects of socioeconomic growth. The second main implication is to reinforce the existence of poverty traps of migration, i.e., locations where extreme poverty may limit the accumulation of assets that are needed to finance mobility.

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 Presented in Session P3. Poster Session Migration, Economics, Environment, Methods, History and Policy