Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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A few weeks ago I attended the Migration and Development Conference, which has emerged in the last few years as the leading forum for cutting-edge economic research in this field.

Going through this year’s program is a great way to get to know latest work in this area. A few of the papers I found especially interesting were these:

  • De Brauw, Mueller, and Woldehanna document the enormous earnings gains experienced by internal migrants in Ethiopia, by tracking the same people over several years. Those who migrate achieve material welfare about 300% greater than those who do not. This mirrors the findings of a tracking study in Tanzania by Beegle, de Weerdt, and Dercon.
  • Cortes and Pan document that Filipino nurses in the United States earn substantially greater wages than US-born nurses. This wage premium may be a quality premium. The researchers control for several other traits of the nurses (demographics, education, location, or detailed job characteristics such as setting, shift work or hospital unit), leaving the quality of their work as the possible reason behind the difference in wages.
  • Bertoli and Fernández-Huertas discuss how one migrant-destination country’s visa policies can have important effects on migrants to other destination countries. They show how ignoring this effect can lead people to underestimate the economic effects of policy restrictions on migration.

This year’s was the fifth annual conference in this young series. Its leading supporters have been the Agence Française de Développement and the World Bank, and this year CGD was a first-time co-sponsor—with generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Some of the key behind-the-scenes drivers of the conference have been Hillel Rapoport, Çaglar Özden, Robert Peccoud, and Thomas Melonio, though many others played key roles. I’ve presented at four of the conferences and served twice on the programming committee, and I’ve been struck by the typically high quality of the research at these conferences compared to some others.

The past years’ programs are packed with some of the very best research in this area (accessible here: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011). Many of the same researchers also published frontier work on skilled migration in particular last year in a special issue of the Journal of Development Economics. I look forward to the sixth conference next year.