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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.
The emigration of skilled workers from developing countries is often referred to as brain drain and considered something that should be limited. In this paper, resident fellow Michael Clemens takes the term to task and shows instead that a more open skill flow—a more accurate and neutral label—would both benefit home countries and guarantee workers the freedom that is the hallmark of development.
Abstract: This paper examines how US military aid affects political violence and democracy in Colombia. Since military aid is channeled to particular Colombian army brigades operating out of government military bases, we compare how changes in aid affect violence and elections outcomes in municipalities with and without bases. To address potential endogeneity in the timing of aid, we use an instrument based on U.S. military aid to the rest of the world (excluding Latin America). We find that increases in US military lead to differential increases in attacks by paramilitaries (who are aligned with the government), but have no significant effect on attacks by guerillas. The aid shock also results in more paramilitary political assassinations during election periods, but has no significant effect on guerilla assassinations. Finally, increases in aid reduce voter turnout in base municipalities, and these effects are larger in politically contested areas. The results suggest that foreign military aid may strengthen the capacity of armed non-state actors, undermining domestic political institutions.