With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
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.
Zimbabwe has experienced a precipitous collapse in its economy over the past five years. The government blames its economic problems on external forces and drought. We assess these claims, but find that the economic crisis has cost the government far more in key budget resources than has the donor pullout. We show that low rainfall cannot account for the shock either. This leaves economic misrule as the only plausible cause of Zimbabwe’s economic regression, the decline in welfare, and unnecessary deaths of its children.
At the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 the nations of the world committed to join forces to meet a set of measurable targets for reducing world poverty, disease, illiteracy and other indicators of human misery—all by the year 2015. These targets, later named the Millennium Development Goals, include seven measures of human development in poor countries. At the same summit, world leaders took on several qualitative targets applicable to rich countries, later collected in an eighth Goal. The key elements of the eighth Goal, pledge financial support and policy changes in trade, debt relief, and other areas to assist poor countries'domestic efforts to meet the first seven Goals. Combined, the eight Goals constitute a global compact between poor and rich to work today toward their mutual interests to secure a prosperous future.
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.