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From a purely economic perspective, migration barriers impoverish the world. Eliminating barriers to labor mobility could add tens of trillions of dollars to global GDP. CGD research in this area brings rigorous economic analysis to a politically charged issue and demonstrates that, throughout history, increasing the number of legal, regulated migrant workers benefits both the counties they live in and leave behind.
Do immigrants from poor countries hurt native workers? A study by an influential immigration economist at Harvard University recently found that a famous flood of Cuban immigrants into Miami dramatically reduced the wages of native workers. But there’s a problem. The Borjas study had a critical flaw that makes the finding spurious.
Imagine you are a Guatemalan living and working in the United States without the proper documents. Almost certainly (because it is legally required) there is a poster in the place where you work—most likely in English and Spanish—that “Equal Opportunity is the Law” and that you are protected from discrimination “on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin.”
Available evidence points to a superior payoff to female migration from gender-unequal countries to more gender-equal countries for the migrant, the sending country, and recipient country alike. This suggests that a policy by relatively gender-equal countries to provide entry preference to female economic migrants from gender-unequal countries would combine development impact and economic self-interest.
There are over 25 million refugees in the world today and most of them—especially those in developing countries—do not have formal labor market access (LMA). Granting refugees formal LMA has the potential to create substantial benefits for refugees and their hosts.
An increasingly common justification for European development assistance to Africa is the notion that it will reduce migration from the South. While this sounds intuitive and makes for an appealing argument, the research shows that it is highly unlikely. As communities become less poor, more people gain the abilities and wherewithal to undertake an expensive journey to a better life elsewhere. Development often increases migration—at least initially.