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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.
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.
A report released recently suggests that two conservative senators are working on a plan to “dramatically scale back legal immigration,” reducing the one million immigrants who legally enter the country to about half that in ten years. Economic research time and again has shown that drastic cuts to legal immigration would be a lose-lose proposal for both the United States and global economy.
Last week I blogged about a research discovery. An influential study had found that a 1980 wave of Cuban refugees into Miami, known as the Mariel Boatlift, had caused the wages of workers there to fall dramatically. In a new paper co-released by CGD and the National Bureau of Economic Research, my co-author and I revealed that large shifts in the racial composition of the underlying survey data could explain most or all of the same fall in wages. The author of the previous study, George Borjas, raised two substantive questions about our research, which I answer briefly in this post.
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.
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.
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.
While short-terms effects from migration have received much attention over the years, Florence Jaumotte and her co-authors examine the longer-term impact of migration on the GDP per capita, and hence standards of living, of receiving advanced economies. Carefully addressingthe risk of reverse causality, the paper finds that immigration significantly increases the GDP per capita of host economies, mostly by raising productivity. Both high- and low-skilled migrants can contribute to raise productivity, likely through skill complementarity in the case of lower-skilled migrants. They also find the gains from immigration appear to be broadly shared across the population.
A small pilot project between the US and Haiti showed that the US could directly and effectively assist Haitian families to earn dignified livelihoods—at negative cost to US taxpayers. That is, the two countries could cooperate for development in a way that actually adds value to the US economy. It did this with short-term work visas.
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.
Skilled workers emigrate from developing countries in rising numbers, raising fears of a drain on the human and financial resources of the countries they leave. This paper critiques existing policy proposals to address the development effects of skilled migration. It then proposes a new kind of policy tool to regulate skilled migration in a way that benefits origin countries, destination countries, and migrants. ‘Global skill partnerships’ are bilateral public-private agreements to link skill creation and skill mobility for mutual benefit. The paper describes how such an agreement might work in one profession (nursing) and one region (North Africa).
Many developing countries need the World Bank’s capital less and less. What role should the Bank play in the 21st century? This paper argues that many features of the Bank today reflect a new role. That role, resting on the economic theory of bargaining and public good provision, is to reduce extreme poverty. Donor subsidies to the Bank already reflect this role, which implies new ways to structure and evaluate the Bank’s work.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are unlikely to be met by 2015, even if huge increases in development assistance materialize. The rates of progress required by many of the goals are at the edges of or beyond historical precedent. Many countries making extraordinarily rapid progress on MDG indicators, due in large part to aid, will nonetheless not reach the MDGs. Unrealistic targets thus may turn successes into perceptions of failure, serving to undermine future constituencies for aid (in donors) and reform (in recipients). This would be unfortunate given the vital role of aid and reform in the development process and the need for long-term, sustained aid commitments.
The World Bank opened in 1946 to finance a global economy just emerging from colonization and warfare and just embarking on the Cold War. Today the global development landscape is radically different, and capital circles the globe at volumes unthinkable back then. Why keep the World Bank now?