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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.
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.
More people are now displaced outside their home than at any other time since UNHCR records began; these mass movements will only continue as conflict, disaster, extreme poverty, and other hardships force people to seek safety and opportunity. Unfortunately, most recent policy solutions have been ad hoc and based in fear. Can we do better? CGD and co-host ODI recently convened a panel of experts to discuss the economics and politics of this crucial question.
The world was caught off-guard by recent mass movements of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa. But this is not one brief storm to be weathered and forgotten. These mass movements will only continue in coming years as conflict, disasters, extreme poverty, and other hardships displace people from their homes. Today the recent rise in 'survival migration' is commonly cited to justify political upheaval and isolationism in both Europe and the United States.
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.
The US economy needs low-skill workers now more than ever, and that requires a legal channel for the large-scale, employment-based entry of low-skill workers. The alternative is what the country has now: a giant black market in unauthorized labor that hinders job creation and harms border security. A legal time-bound labor-access program could benefit the American middle class and low-skill workers, improve US border security, and create opportunities for foreign workers.
A tenuous ceasefire notwithstanding, the millions of Syrians displaced will not be returning home anytime soon. What CGD can do is to delve beneath the anti-migration rhetoric to examine the facts about migrants and refugees, courtesy of our migration expert, Michael Clemens, who joins me on the CGD Podcast.
I’m delighted to be helping organize again, for 2015, the world’s premier research conference on the economics of migration and development. Full-paper submissions are due January 20, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An influential strand of research has tested for the effects of immigration on natives’ wages and employment using exogenous refugee supply shocks as natural experiments. Several studies have reached conflicting conclusions about the effects of noted refugee waves such as the Mariel Boatlift in Miami and post-Soviet refugees to Israel. As a whole, the evidence from refugee waves reinforces the existing consensus that the impact of immigration on average native-born workers is small, and fails to substantiate claims of large detrimental impacts on workers with less than high school.
President Obama will deliver his 2014 State of the Union speech Tuesday, January 28. We polled CGD experts to find out what they’re hoping to hear when the president addresses Congress and the nation. Check out their oratorical contributions below and read about the development-related decisions and policies they would like to emerge in support of the rhetoric.
In this Wonkcast, originally posted on September 7, 2011, Michael Clemens explains why one of the biggest growth opportunities in the world economy lies not in the mobility of goods or capital, but in the mobility of labor. His message remains relevant as International Migrants Day approaches on December 18th. In his recent blog, Clemens argues we have plenty of reason to celebrate the movement of people – and backs it up with economic evidence and history.
Photo: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection / cc
As we approach the third anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, reconstruction and recovery efforts continue—as does the debate within the development community: Why aren’t recovery efforts moving faster? Are international donors and NGOs helping or hurting recovery? Can traditional aid work amidst Haiti's weak government institutions? Are there alternative approaches that would be better?
CGD’s efforts on Haiti’s challenges continue. Here are our recent suggestions for alternative approaches in Haiti, as well as previous innovative ideas that remain relevant:
1) Cash Transfers for Haitians
Vijaja Ramachandran, Senior Fellow
Hurricane Sandy has exacerbated the food crisis in Haiti, as well as increased the incidence of water-based diseases, like cholera. Donors have responded accordingly, but donors must also take steps to improve the quality of their assistance to Haiti. Cash transfers are often the best way to empower disaster victims to rebuild their lives, while also generating demand that fuels the local economy. I recommend the World Food Programme’s Cash for Assets program as an effective model to be implemented for Haitians to purchase much-needed goods and services, in addition to coordinated humanitarian relief.
2) Improve Transparency and Accountability
Vijaya Ramachandran, Senior Fellow, and Julie Walz, Policy Analyst
Since the 2010 earthquake, over $6 billion has been disbursed in official aid to help the people of Haiti. Almost 90 percent of aid has gone to international NGOs and private contractors (9.5 percent has gone to the Government of Haiti and .4 percent to Haitian NGOs and businesses). Yet, there’s very little transparency about how this money is spent. Funders should require more evaluations of NGO and contractor activities, and also report their activities in the IATI format. Further, the Government of Haiti should be encouraged to procure services through competitive bidding. This would not only increase accountability of NGOs and contractors providing the services but also enable the Haitian government to build control over the process.
3) Increase Local Procurement
Vijaya Ramachandran, Senior Fellow, and Julie Walz, Policy Analyst
Out of every $100 spent by the US Government for reconstruction following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, only $1.35 went directly to Haitian companies. The current US development strategy focuses on stimulating economic activity and pledges support to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises along with the development of Caracol Industrial Park. Yet, a key tool is missing in the strategy to build economic security and jobs in Haiti – buying from local businesses.
4) Better Haiti Aid: MigrationMichael Clemens, Senior Fellow
“The U.S. government added Haiti to the list of more than 50 countries eligible to participate in the H-2 visa program for temporary and seasonal workers, ending a longstanding policy of excluding Haitians from America’s largest temporary employment-based visa program. This is wonderful news for Haitians and Americans. It has the potential to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in new economic opportunity for Haitian workers and their families—at no cost to the U.S. or Haitian governments, and with no increase in overall U.S. immigration. This seemingly tiny change has vast economic potential. Given the huge wage differences (an estimated $19,000 in additional annual income per Haitian worker), if just 2,000 Haitians are permitted to work as H-2 workers in the United States each year, over the course of 10 years, that’s $400 million in additional, new income for Haitian families. That’s equal in size to the entire U.S. post-earthquake budget for reconstruction in Haiti. Building on this great work, the US should consider a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program. Haitians who have been approved for US permanent residency must sometimes wait as much as 11 years in Haiti to receive their green cards. A parole program would permit some of them to wait for their green cards in the United Stated instead.”
5) Cholera in Haiti: The Blame GameVictoria Fan, Research Fellow, and Richard Cash, Senior Lecturer on Global Health, Harvard School of Public Health
“Since October 2010, Haiti has struggled to control a deadly cholera outbreak—on top of ongoing recovery efforts from the devastating earthquake in January 2010. In December 2011, a group of lawyers in Haiti, on behalf of some 15,000 victims of cholera, sued the United Nations for $50,000 for each victim and double that for families of those who died. Focusing on these immediate objects of blame are of epidemiologic interest, but deflect attention away from the country experiencing the disease, and in this case, unable to control the spread. In a country where aid agencies and NGOs play major roles relative to the government, this outbreak should draw attention not only to immediate causes but more importantly to the long-term failure by every involved party and to the urgency of improving Haiti’s water and sanitation as soon as possible.”
Click here and here to see earlier lists of alternative development ideas for Haiti, featuring more ideas and commentary on post-quake development efforts.