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Cover of Working Paper 501
January 31, 2019

Measuring the Spatial Misallocation of Labor: The Returns to India-Gulf Guest Work in a Natural Experiment - Working Paper 501

‘Guest workers’ earn higher wages overseas on temporary low-skill employment visas. This wage gap can be used to measure gaps in the productivity of workers due to where they are, not who they are. This paper estimates the effects of guest work on Indian applicants to a construction job in the United Arab Emirates, where an economic crisis allocated guest work opportunities as-good-as-randomly among several thousand families. Guest work raised the return to poor families' labor by a factor of four, with little evidence of systematic fraud.

Cover of 'How Global Businesses Can Improve Refugee Labor Market Access—and Why They Should'
October 9, 2018

How Global Businesses Can Improve Refugee Labor Market Access—and Why They Should

Many of the world’s 25 million refugees spend years struggling to provide for themselves or contribute fully to their host economies because they are legally barred from working or owning businesses. Granting refugees formal labor market access unlocks a range of benefits—for refugees, hosts, and global businesses.

Cover of "Migration Is What You Make It"
May 30, 2018

Migration Is What You Make It: Seven Policy Decisions that Turned Challenges into Opportunities

Policymakers and voters reasonably want to know what the effects of immigration are, to help them decide how much immigration there should be. But the effects of immigration are highly contingent on wherewhenhow, and who. We must ask a more fruitful question: how can different policy choices generate positive economic effects from immigration and avoid negative ones? Immigration is not inherently “good” or “bad.” Its effects depend on the context and the policy choices that shape it.

Cover of Working Paper 479
March 20, 2018

Alleviating Global Poverty: Labor Mobility, Direct Assistance, and Economic Growth - Working Paper 479

Simply allowing more labor mobility holds vastly more promise for reducing poverty than anything else on the development agenda. That said, the magnitude of the gains from large growth accelerations (and losses from large decelerations) are also many-fold larger than the potential gains from directed individual interventions and the poverty reduction gains from large, extended periods of rapid growth are larger than from targeted interventions and also hold promise (and have delivered) for reducing global poverty.

Photo of a stethoscope and other medical supplies
October 11, 2017

Global Skill Partnerships: A Proposal for Technical Training in a Mobile World (Brief)

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?

Photo of a Syrian woman who was displaced
October 11, 2017

Global Skill Partnerships: A Proposal for Technical Training in Settings of Forced Displacement

The world urgently needs innovation to shape how international migration happens. Today people who are forcibly displaced are seen and treated largely as a burden, not as a resource that can bring shared benefits. A new type of private-public partnership can offer new opportunity for some of those who are forcibly displaced. It can be called a Global Skill Partnership, and this note illustrates how it might work for Syrians displaced into Turkey.

cover of working paper 463
October 6, 2017

Testing for Repugnance in Economic Transactions: Evidence from Guest Work in the Gulf - Working Paper 463

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.

June 21, 2017

Measuring Rents from Public Employment: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Kenya - Working Paper 457

Public employees in many developing economies earn much higher wages than similar private-sector workers. These wage premia may reflect an efficient return to effort or unobserved skills, or an inefficient rent causing labor misallocation. To distinguish these explanations, we exploit the Kenyan government’s algorithm for hiring eighteen-thousand new teachers in 2010 in a regression discontinuity design. Fuzzy regression discontinuity estimates yield a civil-service wage premium of over 100 percent (not attributable to observed or unobserved skills), but no effect on motivation, suggesting rent-sharing as the most plausible explanation for the wage premium.

Nicholas Barton , Tessa Bold and Justin Sandefur
June 8, 2017

Investing UK Aid in a Global Skills Partnership: Better Health at Home and Abroad

 A Global Skills Partnership combines training funded by donors with pre-agreed arrangements for qualified graduates to work temporarily overseas, usually in the donor country. This paper shows through one hypothetical example how a GSP for a specific sector (nursing) financed by a specific donor (the UK) delivering training in a specific country (Malawi) addresses critical nursing shortages in both countries.

Working Paper 455 (revised) cover
May 22, 2017

The Labor Market Effects of Refugee Waves: Reconciling Conflicting Results - Working Paper 455

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.

April 3, 2017

Immigration Restrictions as Active Labor Market Policy: Evidence from the Mexican Bracero Exclusion - Working Paper 451

We study a natural experiment that excluded almost half a million Mexican ‘bracero’ seasonal agricultural workers from the United States, with the stated goal of raising wages and employment for domestic farm workers. We reject the wage effect of bracero exclusion required by the model in the absence of induced technical change, and fail to reject the hypothesis that exclusion had no effect on US agricultural wages or employment. Important mechanisms for this result include both adoption of less labor-intensive technologies and shifts in crop mix.
January 23, 2017

Temporary Work Visas as US-Haiti Development Cooperation: A Preliminary Impact Evaluation

We report a small-sample, preliminary evaluation of the economic impact of temporary overseas work by Haitian agricultural workers. We find that the effects of matching new seasonal agricultural jobs in the US with Haitian workers differs markedly from the effects of more traditional forms of assistance to Haiti, in three ways: The economic benefits are shared roughly equally between Haiti and the United States; these benefits are very large, including raising the value of Haitian workers’ labor by a multiple of fifteen; and the portion of the benefits accruing to Haiti is uncommonly well-targeted for the direct benefit of poor Haitian households.