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Migration and development, economic growth, aid effectiveness, economic history
Michael Clemens is co-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.
The arrival of more than a million refugees and migrants in Europe has brought widespread concern they will become an economic drain on the countries that welcome them. When economists have studied past influxes of refugees and migrants they have found the labor market effects, while varied, are very limited, and can in fact be positive.
From 2011 to 2016, about 179,000 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala were apprehended entering the United States. While the crisis received ample media attention, limited data has meant little rigorous analysis of what made those children move. Using unprecedented data on each apprehension, we measure how violence in these children’s hometowns shaped their migration. In the average municipality the children came from, 10 additional homicides caused about six additional apprehensions.
In 2014, unprecedented numbers of children and families began crossing the southern border of the United States, sparking an ongoing debate on what was driving them and how the U.S. should respond. Using data provided by the Department of Homeland Security, new research by Michael Clemens finds the flow of unaccompanied child migrants to the United States has been driven by a complex mix of violence and economic forces. How do these elements interact, and how can foreign policy be a form of migration policy?
CGD experts Michael Clemens and Gaurav Khanna look at high- and low-skilled workers from three countries across several decades. Different studies, different perspectives—but all pointing at the same thing: immigrants have an overwhelmingly net positive effect on the US economy.
On August 2, the White House unveiled a plan to make drastic cuts to legal immigration. CGD experts have written and researched extensively on this hot topic, and have been quoted widely in recent media coverage. Spoiler alert: immigration has an overwhelmingly net positive effect on the US economy.
In a new study on the root causes of child migration from Central America to the United States, I statistically link migration decisions to violence and employment conditions in the localities they come from. I find that the relative contributions of violence and economic drivers are roughly equal, and that every ten additional murders in the region caused six more children to migrate to the United States.
The world urgently needs innovation to shape how international migration happens. Today people who are forcibly displaced are seen and treated largely as a burden, not as a resource that can bring shared benefits. A new type of private-public partnership can offer new opportunity for some of those who are forcibly displaced. It can be called a Global Skill Partnership, and this note illustrates how it might work for Syrians displaced into Turkey.
We study a natural experiment that excluded almost half a million Mexican ‘bracero’ seasonal agricultural workers from the United States, with the stated goal of raising wages and employment for domestic farm workers. We reject the wage effect of bracero exclusion required by the model in the absence of induced technical change, and fail to reject the hypothesis that exclusion had no effect on US agricultural wages or employment. Important mechanisms for this result include both adoption of less labor-intensive technologies and shifts in crop mix.
We estimate the economic effects of short-term work by a small sample of farmers from Haiti in the United States, where no US workers are available. We then compare these to the effects of more traditional assistance. We find that these work opportunities benefit Haitian families much more directly, and to a dramatically greater extent, than more traditional forms of assistance—raising workers’ current earnings on average by multiple of 15.
Many developing countries need the World Bank’s capital less and less. What role should the Bank play in the 21st century? This paper argues that many features of the Bank today reflect a new role. That role, resting on the economic theory of bargaining and public good provision, is to reduce extreme poverty. Donor subsidies to the Bank already reflect this role, which implies new ways to structure and evaluate the Bank’s work.
People who move from poor countries to rich countries add colossal value to the world economy. They can do this, my research has shown, because their labor is often several times more valuable in the countries they move to. Workers who move, even in modest numbers, can create economic gains in the trillions of dollars, and most of that value accrues to the destination country.
Mexico and the United States have lacked a bilateral agreement to regulate cross-border labor mobility since 1965. Since that time, unlawful migration from Mexico to the US has exploded. To address this challenge, CGD assembled a group of leaders from both countries and with diverse political affiliations—from backgrounds in national security, labor unions, law, economics, business, and diplomacy—to recommend how to move forward. The result is a new blueprint for a bilateral agreement that is designed to end unlawful migration, promote the interests of US and Mexican workers, and uphold the rule of law.
Data on the average income of a resident of Ecuador is easy to find. But until now there has been no data on the average income of a person born in Ecuador, regardless of where she or he lives. In this paper, research fellow Michael Clemens and non-resident fellow Lant Pritchett introduce a new dataset, income per natural: the mean annual income of persons born in a given country regardless of residence. Turns out that defining things this way makes a big difference, and not just for tiny nations. Income per natural differs by more than 10% from income per resident for dozens of countries including Vietnam, Kenya and Morocco. In other words, one of the largest sources of increased income for people in many parts of the developing world is moving to another country.
The international goal for rich countries to devote 0.7% of their national income to development assistance has become a cause célèbre for aid activists and has been accepted in many official quarters as the legitimate target for aid budgets. The origins of the target, however, raise serious questions about its relevance.
Global private capital flows have barely touched the poorest nations; the rich invest mostly with the rich. It is possible that failures in the global capital market prevent capital from exploiting high returns in poor countries; it is also possible that fundamental returns to investment are lower in poor countries. In this paper, a novel empirical framework uses standard data to conclude that 85% of wealth bias, whether caused by market failure or not, is domestic in origin. That is, poor country lenders are deterred from investing in poor countries to nearly the same degree that rich-country lenders are.
What should the World Bank optimally do with the US$10 to $20 billion it can loan each year? Has it, in fact, done what is optimal? This study suggests a simple framework within which to measure the World Bank against an optimal international public financier for development. It goes on to argue that a careful treatment of the empirical evidence on Bank lending strongly contradicts optimal behavior under different assumptions. The evidence, in fact, rejects any notion that the Bank has substituted for private capital or that it has successfully catalyzed private development finance.
The US government's proposed $5 billion Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) could provide upwards of $250-$300m or more per year per country in new development assistance to a small number of poor countries judged to have relatively "good" policies and institutions. Could this assistance be too much of a good thing and strain the absorptive capacity of recipient countries to use the funds effectively? Empirical evidence from the past 40 years of development assistance suggests that in most potential MCA countries, the sheer quantity of MCA money is unlikely to overwhelm the ability of recipients to use it well, if the funds are delivered effectively.
This work quantifies how long it has taken countries rich and poor to make the transition towards high enrollments and gender parity. It finds that many countries that have not raised enrollments fast enough to meet the Millennium Development Goals have in fact raised enrollments extraordinarily rapidly by historical standards and deserve celebration rather than condemnation. The very few poor countries that have raised enrollment figures at the rates envisioned by the goals have done so in many cases by accepting dramatic declines in schooling quality, failing large numbers of students, or other practices that cast doubt on the sustainability or exportability of their techniques.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are unlikely to be met by 2015, even if huge increases in development assistance materialize. The rates of progress required by many of the goals are at the edges of or beyond historical precedent. Many countries making extraordinarily rapid progress on MDG indicators, due in large part to aid, will nonetheless not reach the MDGs. Unrealistic targets thus may turn successes into perceptions of failure, serving to undermine future constituencies for aid (in donors) and reform (in recipients). This would be unfortunate given the vital role of aid and reform in the development process and the need for long-term, sustained aid commitments.
Recent research offers differing assessments of the overall, worldwide effect of foreign aid on economic growth in the countries that receive aid. To understand these differences, we re-analyze the same data and same regressions used in the three most influential aid-growth studies. In all three, increases in aid have been followed on average by modest increases in investment and growth. The most plausible explanation is that aid causes some degree of growth in recipient countries, though the magnitude of this relationship is modest, varies greatly across recipients, and diminishes at high levels of aid.