Rapid population expansion has had important demographic and social effects. Two examples are especially illuminating. At the peak of population growth during the second stage, the proportion of children tends to be high, while in the third stage it is low. In South America the proportion of the population under 15 years is still relatively high. As a consequence, the group of people in their productive (working) years is greatly reduced. This high ratio creates a heavier burden for the working group, while the economy is not able to raise the productivity level needed to compensate for it.
Another crucial consequence is the so-called urban explosion. Argentina and Uruguay have become two of the most urbanized countries in the world, but their urban growth has been the result of large-scale foreign immigration. The dramatic increase in urban concentration began approximately in the 1930s. In all of Latin America, the proportion of urban centres with more than 10,000 inhabitants increased from one-fourth in 1950 to about three-fourths in 40 years.
South America now is one of the most urbanized regions in the world, following the industrially advanced areas. Although the rate of growth in larger cities has decreased since 1950, the urban population has continued to be concentrated in the larger districts: a large proportion of the urban, and in some cases of the total, population lives in a single urban centre. This situation prevails in Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru. Much of the growth of South America’s largest cities has come about from natural increase. Migration has remained important, however, because of unfavourable conditions in the countryside.
Land ownership often has been concentrated in a few hands, while “urban bias” in national policy has been reflected in price controls for or subsidized imports of foodstuffs, concentration of health, recreational, and educational facilities, and the expansion of government bureaucracies in large cities.
Attempts to reverse urban bias have met with strong political opposition. There also have been pressures from rural guerrilla movements, especially in Peru, which has caused an especially rapid migration to Lima. The unequal distribution of population in South America—the “hollow continent” phenomenon—is likely to continue and even become more pronounced. Although certain frontier areas, such as Rondônia state in Brazil and the coca-growing regions of the Andes, have attracted substantial in-migration, these flows have been far less than the out-migrations to towns and cities in already densely populated areas. Development of the interior increasingly has relied on labour-saving technology, resulting in little incentive for migration. As the largest cities face overcrowding and increased crime rates, a likely solution will be the urbanization of surrounding rural centres. "South America" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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