People Political Sciences

The Unexpectedly Fast Pace of Demographic Change

, by Fabio Todesco
Population dynamics, at a local level, can be a fast thing, affected by migration and territorial attractiveness. Francesco Billari obtained a Fondazione Cariplo grant to use a new approach in measuring population turnover in four EU states and Switzerland

When, between 2015 and 2016, Germany accepted more than 1.2mln asylum-seekers, mainly from Syria, German demographics experienced a fast and unanticipated spike.

Large changes in population dynamics are unexpected because we think of population change as a slow process, the result of the interplay of fertility and mortality. If this can be true on a global scale, though, migratory movements can deeply affect local dynamics, in the context of nations, subnational regions, or territories. In such a framework, population change may also depend on the attractiveness and resilience of territories.

Francesco Billari, Full Professor of Demography at Bocconi Department of Social and Political Sciences, obtained a €200,000 grant from Fondazione Cariplo for a project named FAST Population Change: Flows, AttractivenesS and Territories' resilience.

"The project emphasizes that demography is not a static but rather a dynamic phenomenon – potentially moving fast," Professor Billari said. "We set out for a new, interdisciplinary framework to analyze population change and its interactions with socio-economic wellbeing at subnational level. The project aims at studying population change at the subnational level in Europe and Italy over the last two decades."

The project proposes a new approach and a new methodology for measuring population turnover at a subnational level in four EU countries and Switzerland. It also will try to understand whether service provision (in particular childcare) can affect the attractiveness of a territory and to clarify how different indicators of the housing market co-evolve over time and space with population turnover in Italian municipalities, using original big-data provided by a corporate partner.

"We will inspect the microfoundation of individuals' mobility decisions, studying systematic differences by gender, socio-economic status, and life histories and will investigate how public administration perceive, and react to, fast population change," concluded Billari.

The main outputs of FAST will be:

1. A novel definition of (fast) population change - at subnational level - and a clear understanding of how salient the role of migration is in shaping population turnover.

2. A better understanding of effects and determinants of population flows at regional and local level by identifying and mapping the attractive and resilient territories.

3. A portrait of policymakers and public administration's reaction to population change.

4. An analysis of how local-level service provision influences population change.

5. An investigation of fast population change in the supply/demand dynamics of housing market.

Bocconi researchers involved in the project include two scholars of public administration (Greta Nasi and Maria Cucciniello), two demographers (Danilo Bolano and Alessandro Di Nallo), and an applied microeconomist (Chiara Serra).