Proposal to study the Utwe diaspora during 19 December 2003 church dedication

Sun, 17 Aug 2003 20:06:32 +1100

I was working with Utwe population numbers this past summer from the PacificWeb site put up by Mitch Levin at the U.S. Census and I found something that surprised me:

Municipality 1986 Census 2000 Census Perc Change Difference Relative growth
Lelu 2422 2566 6% 144 -10%
Malem 1354 1552 15% 198 -1%
Utwe 1076 1130 5% 54 -11%
Tafunsak 1755 2415 38% 660 22%
Sum/Avg: 6607 7663 16% 1056 0%

If these numbers are correct, and supposing that there are not strong differentials in family sizes between the municipalities, then Utwe has experienced the largest outmigration. While some may have "migrated" to Tafunsak where the large stores, airport, and Black Micro offer job opportunities, many have probably moved off-island.

There is some speculation that in terms of per capita income, Utweans may be the "richest" Kosraens due to what may be the largest per capita diaspora. That is, Utwe may have the largest percentage of citizens in jobs abroad. One off-the-cuff estimate is that the number of Utweans off-island might equal the home island population!

On Friday, 19 December 2003, Utwe will dedicate their new Utwe church. This is also a once in four years Christmas marching in a single church, and this year it will be Utwe. The once in forty-some year event of a church dedication coupled with a quadrennial pilgrimage march in Utwe will draw many in the diaspora home. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to survey the diaspora, determine how many live abroad, what types of work they have, and what forms of education they have.

This would also be an opportunity for some of us to extend our family tree work into the diaspora, a community about we know less about. Questions such as marriage choices abroad, family size abroad, and others could potentially be answered.

I hope to get to Utwe prior to the dedication to see what information I can informally gather. I would propose that whatever I might be able to do could be enhanced by others traveling to Kosrae for this event. It would also be a golden opportunity for anyone who wanted to survey the Utwe diaspora. While obviously not everyone will return, enough people should return to gather information on those who stayed home.

Results of the Study

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LocationConservative EstimatePossible Estimate
USA Other-200
Est. Total Pop.:936310063

Depending on the estimates used, on the order of 20% of the Kosraen population is abroad. There is a strong possibility the percentage is higher. Published estimates by the US census bureau suggest that 15,000 FSM citizens are abroad. With a population in the FSM of 107008, 15000 is roughly 17% of the total population. Kosrae, however, has a diaspora that is at least 18% of the home island population, and possibly as high as 24%. Either the census estimates on the numbers of FSM Micronesians abroad are low or the Kosraens are more likely to emigrate.

For Kosrae the percentage abroad is significant. Money and goods sent home represent de facto exports for the Kosraen economy. At home the fish processing plant has failed, the dry dock is inactive, citrus agriculture has been decimated by a canker blight, and tourism remains a small economic niche. The best laid plans of the government have come to nought to date. (Written in January 2004). The diaspora and its resources are Kosrae's most significant asset. Key to developing this resource would be increased funding for education and cultural conservation.