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The Perkins Migration Transition Corollary – Stage 6

A historian of the old-school, we see ourselves as a student of humane letters, not a social scientist. That said, we have also had the opportunity to teach what has come to be called “human geography" for several years. One of the more interesting aspects of is so-called population geography, which studies the growth, distribution, and movement of people on the earth. As a set of systems and lenses for interpreting historical change, it is a helpful field, perhaps even an indispensable one.

A common topic in any introduction to population geography is "demographic transition," a predictive and explanatory model accounting for demographic changes experienced over decades or centuries, and which are initiated by industrialization. The original model, which goes back over a century, described four stages of development in which a rise or fall of birth and death rates in a given country or society which seemed correlated to identifiable history. As such, the model is as much historical as social.

The model has proven to be durable, as well. Although not perfect, the DTM seems to correctly predict the demographic change (or transition) which occurs in any country once it has begun down the path of industrialization.

More recently, however, a “Stage 5” has emerged by some to account for post-industrial countries which now show a very low or negative population growth (amongst indigenous populations). Germany, Japan, and Russia are typically put forward as exemplars. In each case, the country’s Natural Increase Rate (NIR) and/or fertility rate has fallen (or is falling) to demographically dangerous lows (i.e. well below replacement) and suggests a shrinking population. A growing dependency ratio vis-à-vis the social welfare burden complicates the situation for some Stage 5 countries, since it seems common for post-industrial societies to have developed sophisticated pension and insurance schemes.

Not all Stage 5 countries have responded to this challenge in the same way. Russia has used pro-natal policies to directly subsidize motherhood while Japan has simply encouraged its workforce to delay retirement. Germany, on the other hand, has used immigration as a tool to fill the shortfalls in labor and taxes. Although Japan and Russia have largely resisted the move towards more immigration, it seems probable that increasingly dire economic realities will lure more post-industrialized countries to turn to immigration to save them.

This brings us to Zelinsky, whose "mobility transition model" usefully describes the nature of migration patterns in each stage of the DTM. Zelinsky maintains, for example, that migration in Stage 1 is largely seasonal while in Stage 3 there is considerable migrations between cities. For a more thorough explanation, go here.

So far as Stages 1-4 are concerned, we are in agreement with Zelinsky. In more recent years, Professor Zelinsky addressed Stage 5 as well. We think there may be room to revise Zelinsky’s analysis about Stage 5. We do not disagree with his analysis so much as think an essential migration pattern has been overlooked. We will offer that addition here, and on that basis, posit a future Stage 6 as well.

Thus we make our first assertion:

While the emergent DTM Stage 5 is characterized by low CBR and CDR and falling NIR, real population growth will nonetheless be maintained by mass in-migration from Stage 2 and 3 countries.

It is important to note that the population growth may be in spite of policies enacted to maintain equilibrium, because as is clearly established by the DTM, the fertility rates of Stage 2 peoples are high, and social structures are slow to change. Thus anti-natalist policies designed to limit the size of immigrant populations may slow, but will not contain, real growth.

Assuming democratic institutions and social structures, the laws of density and distribution will ensure that as immigrant communities become increasingly concentrated they will also become majorative. As cultural frictions and social structures are overcome or overwhelmed, indigenous peoples may encounter a period of upheaval and realignment. The probable outcomes are either integration or exodus.

This is expressed in our second assertion:

We anticipate a Stage 6 characterized by significant out-migration (by the now-indigenous minority) and continued chain in-migration (by the new-immigrant majority).

We hypothesize that this may actually be the end point of the DTM because, at this point in the model, the society which industrialized (and therefore entered into demographic transition) has (for all statistical purposes) ceased to exist. In its place is an inheriting successor, which may or may not be capable of sustaining, or willing to adopt, the social structures and cultural values responsible for the very industrialization which pulled them in as migrants. This is a historically common experience. Those who moved into Rome in 476 were simply not the same Romans who built the aqueducts, even if they took the name and wore togas.

We present this hypothesis caeteris paribus c.2017 and invite further discussion, research, and review by scholars better equipped to compile and synthesize demographic data to bear out our predictions.

A few quick clarifications on the graphic.

Firstly, we have listed Stage 5 as tentative. Really, I think Stage 5 of the DTM is a given at this point, but it is still emergent. We've seen a few countries fall into this stage with a few more clearly en route. That said, my conclusions about migration have only very recently begun to manifest, and not in all places uniformly. So while we admit that we are waiting for more data to confirm, this part of our hypothesis is more than merely anticipated.

Secondly, models are supposed to be predictive of future behavior, not merely an after-the-fact description of events. This is why we have included Stage 6, but labeled it predicted. But we nonetheless assert that historical experience already bears out this pattern, and it is completely reasonable to expect similar outcomes again.

Lastly, we assert that human geography (and indeed social science itself), to the extent that it can be said to be an independent field of scholastic inquiry, remains subordinate to the discipline of History. Population studies may be an excellent tool to explain and better understand otherwise complex human events, but History (and human action generally) cannot be rightly understood apart from its moral and philosophical aspects. In this sense, all social science must ultimately defer to the realities of historical experience and human nature.

For this reason, we must not fail to assert one other possible outcome to the demographic inputs described; namely, the rise of nationalist, segregationist, or other non-egalitarian elements gaining leverage over state power to enact policies which would slow, stop, or even reverse the trends we have described. Human society is naturally self-segregating, and the fears associated with identity and livelihood are amongst the strongest human motivators. We saw this more than once in the Twentieth, and it is at least conceivable we will see it again in the Twenty-first. We have represented this in the graphic as alternative, as in the sense of what happens if open and democratic structures fail or are overturned.

We are still actively contemplating how this outcome might be accounted for by the model, since we think it is likely we will see this outcome in at least some fraction of the cases. Thus we have made some effort to include this reality into the graphic, but we admit it as the most relectantly held aspect of our hypothesis.

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