In response to the recent migrant and refugee crisis, rich countries have redoubled policy efforts to deter future immigration from poor countries by addressing the “root causes” of migration. We review existing evidence on the extent and effectiveness of such efforts.
As waves of migrants have crossed the Mediterranean and the US Southwest border, development agencies have received a de facto mandate: to deter migration from poor countries. Will it work? Here we review the evidence on whether foreign aid has been directed toward these “root causes” in the past, whether it has deterred migration from poor countries, and whether it can do so.
The Need for a Bilateral Labor Agreement Between the US and Mexico, and the Responsibility for Leadership
From his keynote speech in Mexico City, Michael Clemens writes:
Mexico and the United States need a bilateral agreement to regulate the labor migration flows between these two neighboring countries. They have needed such an agreement my entire life.
Leveraging the Links between Migration and Development: US Government Policy, Practice, and Potential
This paper reviews the positions and activities of the US government that have linked international migration with social, political and, above all, economic development in migrants’ countries of origin, through 2016. It specifies major opportunities for the government to do more for its overseas development policy goals by shaping the terms on which migration occurs, including in times of restricted immigration.
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.
With the majority of all H-1B visas going to Indians, we study how US immigration policy coupled with the internet boom affected both the US and Indian economies, and in particular both countries’ IT sectors.
Violence, Development, and Migration Waves: Evidence from Central American Child Migrant Apprehensions - Working Paper 459
This paper studies the relationship between violence in the Northern Triangle and child migration to the United States. It finds that one additional homicide per year in the region, sustained over the six-year period of study—that is, a cumulative total of six additional homicides—caused a cumulative total of 3.7 additional unaccompanied child apprehensions in the United States. The explanatory power of short-term increases in violence is roughly equal to the explanatory power of long-term economic characteristics like average income and poverty.
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 US has exploded. To address this challenge, CGD assembled a group of leaders from both countries and with diverse political affiliations—from backgrounds in national security, labor unions, law, economics, business, and diplomacy—to recommend how to move forward. The result is a new blueprint for a bilateral agreement that is designed to end unlawful migration, promote the interests of US and Mexican workers, and uphold the rule of law.
Unauthorized Mexican Workers in the United States: Recent Inflows and Possible Future Scenarios - Working Paper 436
The U.S. economy has long relied on immigrant workers, many of them unauthorized, yet estimates of the inflow of unauthorized workers and the determinants of that inflow are hard to come by. This paper provides estimates of the number of newly arriving unauthorized workers from Mexico, the principal source of unauthorized immigrants to the United States, and examines how the inflow is related to U.S. and Mexico economic conditions. Our estimates suggest that annual inflows of unauthorized workers averaged about 170,000 during 1996-2014 but were much higher before the economic downturn that began in 2007. Labor market conditions in the U.S. and Mexico play key roles in this migrant flow. The models estimated here predict that annual unauthorized inflows from Mexico will be about 100,000 in the future if recent economic conditions persist, and higher if the U.S. economy booms or the Mexican economy weakens.
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.
Large wage differences between countries (“place premiums”) are well documented. Theory suggests that factor price convergence should follow increased migration, capital flows, and commercial integration.
Migration from Mexico to the United States has traditionally been predominantly low-skill. But in recent years the skilled fraction of Mexican workers in the United States has grown substantially.
The Effect of Foreign Labor on Native Employment: A Job-Specific Approach and Application to North Carolina Farms - Working Paper 326
Using data collected by the North Carolina Growers’ Association (NCGA), the leading employer of workers with H-2 visas, Michael Clemens shows that foreign workers have almost no direct effect on the employment prospects of US workers in H-2 occupations. Instead, they actually a large and positive indirect effect on US employment by contributing to North Carolina’s economy.
Temporary Work Visas: A Four-Way Win for the Middle Class, Low-Skill Workers, Border Security, and Migrants
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.