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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.
Mexico and the United States have lacked a bilateral agreement to regulate cross-border labor mobility since 1965. Since that time, unlawful migration from Mexico to the U.S. has exploded. Almost half of the 11.7 million Mexican-born individuals living in the U.S. do not have legal authorization. This vast black market in labor has harmed both countries. These two neighboring countries, with an indisputably shared destiny, can come together to work out a better way.
I was delighted to see that the eminent development economist Paul Romer, a non-resident fellow of CGD, will become Chief Economist of the World Bank, and I'll be interested to see how the world’s leading development institution is inspired by Paul’s imagination.
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.
Like you, I know that there are many ways to make a difference in the world. I believe that improving the policies and practices of the rich, powerful, and influential is one of the most powerful and effective ways to support poor people in their efforts to improve their lives.
At the Center for Global Development our research feeds directly into practical policy proposals; we then work with thought leaders and decision makers to push these ideas into action. Our work is making a difference in the lives of small-holder farmers in Africa and unemployed workers in Haiti—and a CGD proposal for a new form of sanctions could help to end the violence in Syria, to name just three recent examples.
I invite you to join the CGD Society with a gift of $150 or more to help us continue to punch above our weight, pushing for policy changes that better the lives of the world's poor. By joining today with a check, wire transfer, or secure credit card transaction online, your investment in our work will be doubled thanks to a generous challenge grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
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Our work on pull funding—market-like incentives for the delivery of products and services needed by poor people—paid off last month with an announcement at the G-20 Summit in Mexico that five countries and the Gates Foundation will provide $100 million for agricultural technology innovations to benefit farmers in Africa. CGD is now urging that the approach be applied to big technology challenges, such as a new form of fertilizer.
After a two-year research and policy engagement effort through our Migration as a Tool for Disaster Recovery Initiative this year the the US government added Haiti to the list of countries eligible for H-2 temporary worker visas, a move that could make available hundreds of millions of dollars to the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere. This month a CGD team returned from a trip to Port-au-Prince where they met with Haitian government officials who said that they were determined to implement the program efficiently.
The CGD proposal for preemptive contract sanctions to bring pressure on the Assad regime in Syria to stop civilian killings is outside of our usual work on poverty and inequality but very much within the CGD tradition of encouraging the rich and powerful countries—in this case primarily the United States and United Kingdom—to use creative measures to create a fairer, more just and more prosperous world. Our latest effort in pushing this idea is a draft Declaration Regarding Illegitimate Contracts with the Syrian Government.
While identifying policy opportunities such as these and then pushing for them to become reality, CGD also hosts a lively calendar of events that serve as a nexus for senior officials, development practitioners, academics and experts, and others like you who are a part of the global development community. In the first half of 2012, we hosted engaging, open dialogues on the leadership selection process at the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. We also hosted major speeches by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde on sustainable development ahead of the recent Rio+20 Summit. And we welcomed other "development heavyweights" as speakers at CGD events, including former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, the World Bank's Justin Lin, and the White House's Gayle Smith.
By joining the CGD Society now with a gift of $150 or moreyou will gain preferred access to upcoming CGD conferences, events, and meetings—and the opportunity to exchange ideas with CGD experts and other leading figures in international policy, business, NGO, and media circles. You will be subscribed to our weekly newsletters and blogs , where you can comment on our work on aid, financial services, trade, migration, health, climate change, and other research spheres that enhance opportunities for the world's poor. Society members are acknowledged on our website and have access to the Center's intellectual resources by receiving complimentary copies of our books and reports published throughout the year.
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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.
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 email@example.com.
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.