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Migration and development, economic growth, aid effectiveness, economic history
Michael Clemens is director of migration, displacement, and humanitarian policy and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, where he studies the economic effects and causes of migration around the world. He has published on migration, development, economic history, and impact evaluation, in peer-reviewed academic journals including the American Economic Review, and his research has been awarded the Royal Economic Society Prize. He also serves as a Research Fellow at the IZA Institute of Labor Economics in Bonn, Germany, an Associate Editor of the Journal of Population Economics and World Development. He is the author of the book The Walls of Nations, forthcoming from Columbia University Press. Previously, Clemens has been an Affiliated Associate Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University, a visiting scholar at New York University, and a consultant for the World Bank, Bain & Co., the Environmental Defense Fund, and the United Nations Development Program. He has lived and worked in Colombia, Brazil, and Turkey. He received his PhD from the Department of Economics at Harvard University, specializing in economic development, public finance, and economic history.
This paper argues that every rich country should consider its immigration policy to be part of its international development policy, and vice versa. A development policy that includes migration will be more effective; an immigration policy that includes development will better serve rich countries’ ideals and interests.
U.S. policies and practices have a significant impact on development prospects in the poorer world. While development is crucial to numerous U.S. policy goals, it is often oddly absent in domestic political debate. On Wednesday, January 27, President Obama will deliver his first official State of the Union address to Congress, the American public, and a global audience seeking to understand the U.S.’s priorities in 2010. As in previous years, CGD encourages people around the world, from the Beltway to Bangkok, to participate in and evaluate the president’s remarks by playing CGD State of the Union Bingo.
In a recent online discussion panel, OneWorld.net posed questions about migration to Michael Clemens, research fellow at CGD. The panel’s objective was to reduce confusion about migration in rich and poor countries. Clemens was joined by Esther Nieves, American Friends Services Committee; and Sandip Roy, New America Media, to answer questions about U.S. immigration and opportunities and responsibilities associated with global migration. Among these topics, the experts responded to questions regarding illegal immigration, applying for visas, immigrants' impact on the U.S. economy, immigrants changing the U.S., immigration then and now, migration as poverty reduction, and refugees in South Africa.
Access the online panel (OneWorld Website)
Q: Much of the recent migration debate in the U.S. has focused on the impact of illegal immigrants--or shall we say undocumented workers--on the U.S. economy. What about the impact of migration on the sending countries? Is there a consensus among development economists about whether emigration is good or bad for development?
A: Ever since mass emigration from Ireland in the 19th century caused wages there to rise, it has been clear to most economists that the departure of low-skill workers largely benefits the sending country (see, for example, Migration as Disaster Relief: Lessons from the Great Irish Famine). A UN balance sheet of the economic effects of migration found that movement of low-skill workers offers sending countries many benefits and at essentially no cost (see the World Economic and Social Survey 2004: International Migration (PDF) ).
But there's a raging controversy about the effects of emigrating high-skill workers. People worried about so-called brain-drain argue that skilled migrants take with them not only their abilities but also public investments in their education. But some skilled émigrés return home, many send money, and many assist in technology transfer and the creation of trade and investment networks. Their departure may even change the education decisions of those remaining behind--for example, by causing people to study harder and invest more in education. Some economists claim to show that the net effect of skilled worker emigration is actually positive (see Brain Drain and LDC’s Growth: Winners and Losers).
Q: Compared to the current arrangements, would a U.S. guest worker program have any effect on the development impact of migration?
A: There is likely to be little development impact of such a law on the migrant-sending countries, because the primary effect will be to regularize a small fraction of those already moving rather than to change who moves. There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. now, with another 700,000 arrivals every year, but various proposals foresee caps of just 100,000 to 400,000 on the total number of visas--most of which will be used by people who would have migrated anyway (see the recent brief (pdf) from the Migration Policy Institute). If there is to be a development effect from any new law, it might come by making immigration somewhat more politically palatable to U.S. citizens (e.g. by shifting workers' medical expenses from tax payers to employers) thereby preventing a backlash against new immigration down the road.
Q: Within the development community, there is a lot of interest in remittances. By one estimate, remittances from the U.S. in 2004 were $47 billion, more than twice the nearly $20 billion that the U.S. provided in official assistance. What is known about the impact of remittances on development?
A: In El Salvador and Honduras, remittances exceed 15% of national income, and the positive effect of remittances on health and education in recipient households has been documented in several countries (see, for example, Remittances, Household Expenditure and Investment in Guatemala). But while remittances exceed foreign aid globally, this is not the case in most low-income, migrant-sending countries. Sub-Saharan Africa gets about $8 billion in remittances per year but gets more than $25 billion in aid. Many of the countries sending the fewest migrants--and thus getting the lowest levels of remittances--are also the poorest.
Q: Your own research has been focusing on the causes and effects of skilled migration. What is your hypothesis, and how are you going about testing this?
A: I study the consequences of skilled-worker migration on developing countries of origin. To make the question manageable I focus on one profession and one region: African doctors and nurses. I have measured the movement of health professionals out of 53 African countries, allowing me to observe the relationship between emigration and health outcomes across countries and over time. My hypothesis is that many African countries have both very poor health and increasing emigration of health professionals because of underlying problems with their health systems--not because of migration itself. I recently returned from Kenya and Rwanda, and all the top health policy officials I spoke with in these countries agreed with this basic premise.
Q: Give Us Your Best and Brightest: The Global Hunt for Talent and Its Impact on the Developing World by Devesh Kapur and John McHale suggested four policy options for rich and developing countries so that the benefits of migration are more equally shared with the developing world. One proposal is compensation: that rich countries compensate developing countries for the loss of skilled workers, for example, by headhunters paying a fee to the sending country, or that developing countries impose an exit tax, to recoup the costs of educating skilled workers who leave. In your view, does such an approach make sense?
A: The answer will surely vary depending on the case, but it is not at all obvious that this is appropriate. Consider migrant health professionals. The only academic study to focus on the remittances of these workers measured how much money is sent home by Tongan and Samoan nurses in Australia. The study found that the typical nurse sends home well over U.S. $2,000 every year, regardless of whether he or she has been in Australia for 5 years or 25 years. So Tonga and Samoa get back far, far more than they spent to educate those nurses. These developing island nations experienced a large financial gain--not loss--due to their public investments in departed nurses. Why should those sending countries be compensated for having made an investment with a huge financial return? Certainly there are complexities of the domestic distribution of those resources, but it is not clear that those are best handled through the blunt instrument of international government-to-government compensation checks.
Click here to see the report card (PDF)
This report card provides a simple overview of the extent to which countries in the world meet one of the five recommendations of Migrants Count: Five Steps Toward Better International Migration Data, the report of the Commission on International Migration Data for Development Research and Policy. The report card is a research product of the Center for Global Development and has not been reviewed or endorsed by the Commission.
The scores are given in two sections:
The first section reflects data on the “2010 round” of censuses, many of which are set to occur somewhat before and somewhat after the year 2010. As of November 2008, when our data on these censuses were collected, 60 countries had completed a census in the 2010 round, and information on 48 of those censuses was available to be analyzed. For these 48 censuses, we give a grade of A (best) through F (worst). The “F” represents performance on census questions only, and does not reflect overall performance on the collection and dissemination of migration-related data; some countries that score an “F” for census data do much better with other forms of data.
The second section provides information on other countries, whose census from the 2010 round was not yet completed at the time of the analysis or not available to be analyzed. These scores are based on the 2000 census round. Here, we present information only on countries that received a grade of A or B. Countries that receive a grade of C or F based on their 2000-round census are not listed, since some of them may have already planned big improvements for the 2010 round.
The source for the underlying data on which these scores are based is the United Nations Population Division. Note well that the underlying data were current as of November 2008 only.
The first recommendation of the Commission is that all countries ask three questions on their national census—country of birth, country of citizenship, and country of residence either one year ago or five years ago—and release public tabulations of the answers with a separate count for each foreign country of birth or prior residence. This is only possible if the census form is designed to record all possible countries of birth and previous residence. For this reason, countries that only allow partial responses (such as boxes to check for only five foreign countries, plus a catch-all “other” category) are not considered to comply with the recommendations.
Countries receive one point if they ask what specific country each person was born in. They receive one point if they ask what country the person resided in one year ago. They receive one point if they ask what country the person resided in five years ago. They receive half a point if they ask in which country a person resided prior to the present year, other than one or five years ago (such as two years ago, ten years ago, etc.). No data on the “country of citizenship” question were available to be analyzed so that question is not included in the score.
The grades are given as follows:
A score of 3 points earns an “A”
A score of 2.5 points earns an “A-”
A score of 2 points earns a “B”
A score of 1.5 points earns a “B-”
A score of 1 point earns a “C”
A score of 0.5 points earns a “C-”
A score of 0 points earns an “F”
Examine the report card
President Bush literally shoots for the stars in his 2004 budget with a 5.6 percent increase to NASA’s budget. He doesn't just want to win this fall; he wants a legacy. I wonder if he knows that Cadillac legacies are available at Pontiac prices.