Hello colleagues, and thank you for this opportunity to learn from you in this rich and robust exchange of ideas. Jalal and I have been discussing how we can, and will, incorporate so many of the comments that have been shared as we continue to promote the scope and methods of demography in studies of forced migration and displacement, and to engage more of our colleagues in the population sciences in these pressing issues of humanity, sustainability and environmental change.
Thanks in particular to David, Alex, Raya, Hannah, Ilan and Alhaj Hajhamad for raising specific questions and issues of the role of demographic analysis in revealing critical dimensions of the relationships among climate and environmental change and displacement.
David, you have noted the need for thinking about how different factors, determinants or causes (conflict, persecution, environmental hazards, depletion and change) may yield variable demographic outcomes such as timing and direction of migration and displacement, and human agency regarding asylum-seeking. Here, we think that specification of social demographic characteristics (age, gender, family, health status, household composition, etc.) of persons displaced as well as immobile, and also residents of ‘host’ populations over time can reveal a great deal about the nature of these relationships. Measures of migrant selectivity and migration differentials - ‘work-horses’ of demographic analysis -- can serve to reveal significant patterns of variation that speak to vulnerability and resilience, as well as to migration and social science theory (going to Alex’s point). Data on migration and migrants are worthy of collection and a deep look – but comparison to populations and communities of origin, and of spaces of displacement and destination, are critical. Comparisons between migrants and non-migrants (please excuse the short-hand) are policy-relevant in terms of response and the provision of resources, but also theoretically-essential, to build and revise migration theory.
We believe this line of argument also speaks to Raya’s point about building predictive models, and the need for longitudinal data, data over the life course to better understand the dynamic nature of displacement for individual migrants and households, and potentially intergenerational effects, cumulative demographic effects perhaps?
Alex’s questions about individual agency and choice in forced displacement and (im)mobility causes us to think deeply again about gender, and to question whether our (speaking to demographers!) ‘traditional’ approaches to data collection and inquiry line up with the full spectrum of dimensions of decision-making regarding migration and mobility. The need for more, and more nuanced, data about ‘reasons for migration’ among refugees and forced migrants should be met with more analytic reflection, informed by feminist theory and research, about varying demands on men and women, girls and boys, in migration decision-making, and how best measure/document those demands.
Finally, our goal over the last 10 years has been to mainstream forced migration into the demography discipline, but we also encourage both our fellow demographers and other social scientists as well as other experts including geographers and climate change scholars to conduct multidisciplinary research to better understand the situation of forced migrants and contribute to effective policies.
Again, thank you for pushing us to think beyond what we think we know, how we conduct research, and how to expand and sharpen the lens of demography.