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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, and has served as 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.
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Today, Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, released the following statement responding to the announcement of the finalization of the Global Compact for Migration.
“This is the biggest step the world has taken to cooperatively face the defining policy challenge of our time: how to better regulate international migration in this century. The Compact offers a clear mandate and roadmap for countries to work together to get more of what they want from migration and less of what they do not want.
“Unfortunately, there is currently a political movement ascendant in the U.S., UK, Italy, and elsewhere promising to address the many problems of migration by restricting or eliminating it altogether. This new Compact is the defining alternative to that movement. It is a treasure chest of the best ideas on how to address the many challenges of migration with hard work and a pragmatic cooperative approach.
“While the Compact is now final, the real work is just beginning. As countries prepare to adopt the Global Compact for Migration in December, discussions will revolve around how to operationalize and implement the commitments agreed to in this document. One innovation endorsed by the Compact is the idea to create Global Skill Partnerships. Other innovations should also be piloted and tested out, as countries and their partners work to identify sustainable solutions to today’s migration challenges and opportunities.
“The road ahead will be difficult and many of the challenges and points of contention that arose during the Compact’s negotiations will not disappear with its adoption. Rather, countries will need to tackle these challenges head-on as they work toward pragmatic, evidence-based, and coordinated migration policies and practices that fulfill the objectives and commitments of the Compact. I welcome today’s achievement, and I look forward to supporting countries as they move forward with implementation.”
Large international differences in the price of labor can be sustained by differences between workers, or by natural and policy barriers to worker mobility. We use migrant selection theory and evidence to place lower bounds on the ad valorem equivalent of labor mobility barriers to the United States. Natural and policy barriers may each create annual global losses of trillions of dollars.
A yearlong project of the Ford Foundation has asked a simple question—“What is inequality?”—to CGD’s Michael Clemens along with a group including Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz, Gloria Steinem, Sir Richard Branson, and Sir Elton John. Many spoke about rising domestic inequality. But to Clemens, #InequalityIs global. And innovative policy can tap the power of migration to reduce inequality while minimizing its risks.
Our most common intuition about migration and development is just as clear: more development must cause less migration. Won’t economic growth in, say, Haiti mean that fewer Haitians want to leave? This seems as plain as the sun crossing the sky, but the data simply do not support it.
Research on migration and development has recently changed, in two ways. First, it has grown sharply in volume, emerging as a proper subfield. Second, while it once embraced principally rural-urban migration and international remittances, migration and development research has broadened to consider a range of international development processes. These include human capital investment, global diaspora networks, circular or temporary migration, and the transfer of technology and cultural norms. We present a selection of frontier migrant-and-development research that instantiates these trends.
Are your wages determined by what you know, or where you are? This paper estimates how the wages of workers in 42 developing countries would change if the same people could work in the United States. It uses a rich new database on over two million workers around the world. A worker from the median country would earn about 2.7 times as much in the US as at home. This means that (1) for many countries, the wage gaps caused by barriers to movement across international borders are among the largest known forms of wage discrimination; (2) these gaps represent one of the largest remaining price distortions in any global market; and (3) simply allowing labor mobility can reduce a given household’s poverty to a much greater degree than most known antipoverty interventions inside developing countries.
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.
Large numbers of African nurses and doctors are emigrating to the U.S., U.K., Australia and other rich countries. These movements strain local health systems and deprive sick people of urgently needed care. Right? Think again. What if wages and working conditions in city slums and rural villages are so dismal that trained health workers are unwilling to work there, regardless of migration options? What if the possibility of migration actually causes more people in developing countries to train as health care workers? Drawing on a new database of health worker emigration from Africa, CGD research fellow Michael Clemens finds that the conventional wisdom about the impact of doctors and nurses migration is entirely wrong. Visas, he concludes, do not kill. Learn more
The migration of doctors and nurses from Africa to rich countries has raised fears of an African medical brain drain. Research on the issue has been hampered by lack of data. How many doctors and nurses have left Africa? Which countries did they leave? Where have they settled? To answer these questions, CGD researchers compiled the first dataset of cumulative bilateral net flows of African-born physicians and nurses to the nine most important destination countries. Learn more
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.