Mongolia Week 4: Expectations

    The average age of Ulaanbaatar’s residents seems to be very young. Though I first arrived at this conclusion through simple observation and a general notion, this was a fact that was later confirmed for me by a cursory look at recent census statistics. Not only have births per year increased leading to a continuously younger populace, but upwardly mobile youths are more and more frequently leaving their home in the countryside of Mongolia to live and work in Ulaanbaatar. In my role of supervising the conducting of Gallup’s annual World Poll, I have gotten the chance to speak to and see how many of these young migrants feel about their decisions and the city they’ve come to inhabit, which in turn has colored my perceptions of the young metropolitanism that has come to define my experience in Mongolia.

    During a short meeting that I was privileged to have with Jon Clifton, a Global Managing Partner for Gallup, I was run through a portion of the survey that Mr. Clifton liked to call the “Global Happiness Report,”something that he has built much of his career and advocacy off of advancing. The Report asks for people to rate their quality of life at the current point, as well as their quality of life five years in the future. In our discussion, Mr. Clifton revealed that Mongolia has historically been a very optimistic country, in that the majority of its residents often would rate their future quality of life as having a strong possibility of being very, very good.

    Even if this is the case in broad strokes, further investigations warrant out several interlaced trends that give this ultimate impression. It appears as if all of the given optimism does not lie with the upper-middle class youths within Ulaanbaatar. While this demographic does often rate their current quality of life higher than other groups, they lack the positive envisionment of their future Mr. Clifton discussed, often going as far as to rate their future quality of life to be lower than that of their current position. In direct comparison to a similar age range of individuals that do not live near the city center, but rather in the often-impoverished Ger Districts that border the city, we see that this group holds far more lofty views of their future, with many often rating their possible future life as a ten, the highest on the scale. Even though their initial rating is most often lower than that of their inner-city counterparts, the individuals in the Ger Districts also generally displayed more contentment with their surroundings, with one exception: Many of the younger denizens of the Ger Districts see their lives improving when they move into Ulaanbaatar proper. This creates a sort of tragic, suspended paradox. Is it the case that those residing in the city often were similarly optimistic before their move? Is it the city itself and its lifestyle that annihilates the optimism that observers often characterize the Mongolian populace by? With the ever-increasing rate of growth the Ulaanbaatar experiences, what is the likelihood that Mongolia loses its reputation of optimism in the future?