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Pollution, Crime, Mistrust, and Density across Space: Why Don't More People Migrate?


Martina Kirchberger
Earth Institute Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Columbia University


Justin Sandefur
Research Fellow, Center for Global Development

Why are the wide gaps in living standards between rural and urban areas in developing countries so persistent? The presence of amenities in rural areas is one explanation for why (even more) people don't move from impoverished rural areas to urban centers. In her new paper, Martina Kirchberger links data from geo-referenced household surveys on crime and mistrust, to satellite measures of pollution and data on population density. She shows significant pollution-population density gradients for China and India. In Africa, it does not seem to be the case that urban living is accompanied by tangible disamenities from pollution or crime. Nevertheless, there appears to be a breakdown in trusting relationships in urban areas, and this is one of the few variables that would provide support for a simple spatial equilibrium.

*The CIRF series is an academic research seminar that brings some of the world's leading development scholars to discuss their new research and ideas. The presentations are at times technical, but retain a focus on a mixed audience of researchers and policymakers. There’s more about the series here.

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