|All Authors / Contributors:
||TJ: POPULATION BULLETIN OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Population distribution policies have received increasing attention in recent years, especially in developing countries. One reason is that, especially in heavily primate developing countries, the spacial distribution of population (and economic activity) has generated conditions that conflict with important societal goals, such as interpersonal and interregional equity, national security, political stability, improvement in the quality of life, optimal resource exploitation, and long-term economic efficiency. Moreover, in many cases, the overall development strategy as reflected in macro and sectoral policies, has strong implicit spatial impacts that have, more often than not, reinforced an "unfavorable" population distribution, that is, one that conflicts with national goals and priorities. The only way to correct that is to modify the overall development strategy or to implement offsetting explicit population distribution policies. Many countries have adopted population distribution policies in recent years, but they have varied greatly in degree of implementation. Clear failures have been very common, and there have been almost no undiluted successes. This indifferent success should not be used as an argument against planned population distribution. The present article provides an overview of population distribution policies with special but not total reference to developing countries. Population goals are analyzed and the argument that rural-metropolitan migration is excessive is critically discussed. Policy instruments to influence the location of both households and firms are evaluated. It is argued that strategies to control primate city growth, to promote small towns and secondary cities and to implement rural-development programs are complementary rather than alternatives. Partial strategies, such as relocation of the national capital, countermagnets, new towns, border region policies and land colonization schemes, should be adopted only in rare cases because of their high costs and minimal impact. Success in population distribution policies has been hampered by implementation problems as well as poorly designed strategies. Nevertheless, policy makers should persevere, expecially in the countries that combine modest urbanization levels with high rates of aggregate population growth, since improvements in the distribution of population may generate a variety of social benefits, such as efficiency, equity, environmental quality, national security and integration.