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 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.
Workers from poor countries can find enormous economic opportunity by working temporarily in a rich country. But agencies that fight global poverty do little to facilitate guest work. This may be because guest workers are perceived to typically suffer negative side effects that outweigh the benefits. This paper uses a natural experiment to test several perceptions of harmful side-effects on Indian guest workers in the Gulf. The research shows little evidence that the harmful side-effects often ascribed to guest work are typical and systematic, though this does not contradict the occurrence of many individual cases of harmful side-effects.
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.
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.
Skilled workers emigrate from developing countries in rising numbers, raising fears of a drain on the human and financial resources of the countries they leave. This paper critiques existing policy proposals to address the development effects of skilled migration. It then proposes a new kind of policy tool to regulate skilled migration in a way that benefits origin countries, destination countries, and migrants. ‘Global skill partnerships’ are bilateral public-private agreements to link skill creation and skill mobility for mutual benefit. The paper describes how such an agreement might work in one profession (nursing) and one region (North Africa).
Many poor countries, especially in Africa, will miss the MDGs by a large margin. But neither African inaction nor a lack of aid will necessarily be the reason. Instead, responsibility for near-certain ‘failure’ lies with the overly-ambitious goals themselves and unrealistic expectations placed on aid. While the MDGs may have galvanized activists and encouraged bigger aid budgets, over-reaching brings risks as well. Promising too much leads to disillusionment and can erode the constituency for long-term engagement with the developing world.
Within a decade, Europe will require hundreds of thousands more nurses than it is likely to train. To meet the growing need, nurses will move in large numbers to Western Europe from other countries, including those in Eastern Europe. But Eastern Europe currently lacks nurses already relative to Western Europe, while Eastern European youths crave opportunities in skilled employment. How can nurses trained in Eastern Europe move to Western Europe in a way that benefits both regions?
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.
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.