Posts Tagged ‘migration’

German dialects and migration: How linguistic variations affect where Germans choose to live (Economist)

Friday, August 13th, 2010

201012eum978[Editor’s note: Sprechen Sie Deutsch? I keep returning to this article from the Economist from earlier this year in March. You might also enjoy: What’s the point of counties? (UK) and The English apple season starts – though they’re hard to find.]

Republished from the Economist.

FEW Germans now say Appel rather thanApfel (apple) or maken instead of machen(to make). The north German dialects that use such variants are mostly dead or dying. But the cultural differences that they reflect still govern behaviour today, says a paper from the Institute for the Study of Labour, in Bonn*.

Acting on imperial orders in the 1880s, a linguist called Georg Wenker asked pupils from 45,000 schools across the new Reich to translate standard German sentences into local dialect. The results were used to compile an atlas of linguistic diversity. The new paper shows that Wenker’s dialect regions still define the comfort zones in which Germans prefer to live. When people migrate within Germany, they tend to go to places where dialects resemble those spoken in their home region 120 years ago.

German dialects, formed by geography and political and religious fragmentation, express deep-seated cultural differences. These persist even though borders between petty princedoms are invisible (and often no longer audible). Even small differences count. Swabians share Baden-Württemberg with Badeners. Both spoke Alemannic dialects. But Swabians, who say Haus (house), have a bias against living in the neighbouring old grand duchy, where they say Huus.

That trade is livelier among regions that share a language is well known. The paper’s authors think they are the first to find a similar effect within a single language in one country. They measure migration not trade, because the data are better and cultural factors matter more. The best predictors are still Wenker’s maps. “Even when we don’t speak dialect, the cultural territory is still there,” says Alfred Lameli, one of the authors.

Does this confuse cause and effect? Regions may have similar dialects because earlier generations migrated and their descendants follow suit. To rule this out, the authors looked at the way communist East Germany weakened social links that encourage migration. After unification, they found, the old migration patterns came back, suggesting that migrants respond to cultural factors more than to social ties. It seems that neither television, nor the autobahn, nor even the Kaiser, has created a single country in Germany.

*“Dialects, Cultural Identity, and Economic Exchange” by Oliver Falck, Stephan Heblich, Alfred Lameli and Jens Südekum, IZA, February 2010

One mulberry, and they’re carried home (Wash Post)

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

mulberries

[Editor’s note: Food geography mixed with migration and sense of place = psychogeography!]

Republished from The Washington Post.

In Washington, mulberry trees offer many immigrants a taste of home
By Tara Bahrampour

The rush-hour rainstorm didn’t faze Sara Shokravi as she parked in Rosslyn, ducked into a Starbucks restroom to change out of her work clothes and marched down to a narrow offramp that feeds motorists onto the Key Bridge. Ignoring the cars that splashed water onto the grass, Shokravi, a 27-year-old consultant, pulled out a plastic bag, stopped at a tree laden with red and black berries, and started picking.

It would not have been a strange sight in her native Iran, where at this time of year entire families can be seen at laying out bedsheets and shaking trees to collect the berries, which they eat fresh, dried or blended into juice. Here, she acknowledged, her foraging prompts “funny looks. This is D.C. — people aren’t going to go out of their way to get something if it’s not in a store.”

They don’t know what they’re missing, say mulberry fans, most of whom are immigrants. Just the sight of fruit-laden trees can conjure up sweet memories for people who grew up in the Middle East, Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Far East.

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .

Migration in China: Invisible and heavy shackles (Economist)

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

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[Editor’s note: Powerful charting compares official stats to reality for the agricultural “ecosystem refugees” who find themselves in the city. Related: US Census releases data on geographic mobility for 2008.]

Republished from the Economist.

Until China breaks down the barriers between town and countryside, it cannot unleash the buying power of its people—or keep its economy booming.

ON THE hilly streets of Chongqing, men with thick bamboo poles loiter for customers who will pay them to carry loads. The “stick men”, as they are called, hang the items from either end of the poles and heave them up over their shoulders. In a city where the Communist Party chief, Bo Xilai, likes to sing old revolutionary songs, these workers should be hymned as heroes. Yet few of them are even classed as citizens of the city where they live.

Most of the stick men were born in the countryside around Chongqing. (The name covers both the urban centre that served as China’s capital in the second world war, and a hinterland, the size of Scotland, which the city administers.) Since 1953, shortly after the Communists came to power, Chinese citizens have been divided into two strata, urban and rural, not according to where they live but on a hereditary basis. The stick men may have spent all their working lives on the streets of Chongqing, but their household registration papers call them “agricultural”.

The registration system (hukou, in Chinese) was originally intended to stop rural migrants flowing into the cities. Stick men were among the targets. In the early days of Communist rule in Chongqing the authorities rounded up thousands of “vagrants” and sent them to camps (vagrants, said Mao Zedong, “lack constructive qualities”). There they endured forced labour before being packed back to their villages.

201019fbc434Rapid industrial growth over the past three decades has required tearing down migration barriers to exploit the countryside’s huge labour surplus. Hukou, however, still counts for a lot, from access to education, health care and housing to compensation payouts. To be classified as a peasant often means being treated as a second-class citizen. Officials in recent years have frequently talked about “reforming” the system. They have made it easier to acquire urban citizenship, in smaller cities at least. But since late last year the official rhetoric has become more urgent. Policymakers have begun to worry that the country’s massive stimulus spending in response to the global financial crisis could run out of steam. Hukou reform, they believe, could boost rural-urban migration and with it the consumer spending China needs.

In early March 11 Chinese newspapers (it would have been 13, had not two bottled out) defied party strictures and teamed together to publish an extraordinary joint editorial. It called on China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), which was then about to hold its annual meeting, to urge the government to scrap the hukou system as soon as possible. “We hope”, it said, “that a bad policy we have suffered for decades will end with our generation, and allow the next generation to truly enjoy the sacred rights of freedom, democracy and equality bestowed by the constitution.” Not since the Tiananmen uprising in 1989 had so many newspapers simultaneously cast aside the restraints imposed by the Communist Party’s mighty Propaganda Department, which micromanages China’s media output.

Continue reading at the Economist . . .

Downturn keeping Americans’ wanderlust in check (Wash Post)

Monday, December 28th, 2009

[Editor's note: Perhaps having a better sense of local place + broadband internet access isn't so bad?]

Republished from The Washington Post.
By Carol Morello. Thursday, December 10, 2009

Study: Fewer moving than at any time since World War II

The wanderlust that helped define the American character has been reined in by the recession and the collapse in housing prices, according to a new study showing fewer Americans changing residences than at any time since World War II.

About 12 percent of Americans moved in each of the past two years, down from 13 to 14 percent a year during the first part of this decade. Historical trends show a more precipitous drop. In any given year throughout the 1990s, 16 to 17 percent of Americans changed homes. Throughout the 1950s and in the early 1960s, it was one in five.

William Frey, the Brookings Institution demographer who wrote the study, said the economic slowdown has accelerated a long-term trend of people growing more rooted as homeownership has increased and the average age of Americans has risen. Add the bursting of the housing bubble, the credit crisis and the resulting recession, and many people are cemented in place.

“This triple whammy of forces made it riskier for would-be homebuyers to find financing, would-be sellers to receive good value for their home and potential long-distance movers to find employment in areas where jobs were previously plentiful,” said Frey, who analyzed statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and the IRS for the study released Wednesday.

The report paints a picture of an America slowing down. The numbers for metropolises such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, which had been losing tens of thousands of residents in search of more affordable housing, are stabilizing. The flow out also subsided in the Washington area, whose population growth has been fueled by the arrival of tens of thousands of immigrants.

The effect of foreclosures was suggested in the study. In the year beginning in March, the percentage of people who moved to another house in the same county inched up more than half a percentage point from 2007 to 2008. But the percentage of people who moved to another state — a statistic more likely to reflect a new job — stayed the same, a record low level of 1.6 percent.

The phenomenon affected people across every demographic except immigrants.

The young and the footloose in their 20s are usually responsible for an outsized share of those who move, and they showed the steepest decline as jobs grew scarce, prompting many to return to their parents’ homes.

Continue reading at The Washington Post . . .