International Migration and City Growth in the Global South

Mathias Lerch , Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

Urbanization in the global South carries a number of risks and opportunities for human development, which may also increase international migration. Yet the evidence about the sources of urban growth is scarce, especially on migration and at the city level. We offer comparative estimates, and associated confidence intervals, of international migration in cities of the global South and investigate the interactions with other growth components across seven countries and their urban hierarchies. Combining individual-level census data and geographic master-files with indirect techniques of demographic estimation, we cover 377 consistently defined metropolitan areas. Cities pioneered the transformations of their countries’ international migration regime. In almost one third of cities, the population change and replacement was mainly determined by migration. The international component of migration was larger than the domestic one in more than half of cities. Whereas internal migration tends to decrease with rising city size, the balance in international movements tends to increase. Positive net international migration substitutes for the net losses from domestic movements in large cities, but complements the gains in intermediary cities.

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 Presented in Session 62. Migration and Spatial Change in Global South