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A Labor Mobility Agenda for Development

  • Michael Clemens

Rich countries have made efforts for half a century to help people in poor countries catch up to rich-country standards of living. Those efforts have included giving foreign aid, encouraging overseas investment, dismantling trade barriers, and spreading ideas and institutions. That is, their international development policy has been to encourage the globalization of almost all factors of production—except labor. So far, this policy has failed to cause the living standards of most people in most developing countries to converge with living standards in rich countries. But the globalization of labor—greater mobility for workers across borders—quickly and massively raises migrants’ living standards toward those of rich countries. This paper argues that every rich country should consider its immigration policy to be part of its international development policy, and vice versa. A development policy that includes migration will be more effective; an immigration policy that includes development will better serve rich countries’ ideals and interests. The paper also gives a non-technical review of new research on several common objections to unifying development policy and migration policy. One concrete way forward is for rich countries to greatly open up legal pathways for temporary labor movement.

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Paper provided by Center for Global Development in its series Working Papers with number 201.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:201
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.cgdev.org

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  2. Matthew J. Slaughter, 1997. "Per Capita Income Convergence and the Role of International Trade," NBER Working Papers 5897, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2007. "Long-Run Changes in the U.S. Wage Structure: Narrowing, Widening, Polarizing," NBER Working Papers 13568, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Michael A. Clemens & Lant Pritchett, 2008. "Income per Natural: Measuring Development for People Rather Than Places," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 34(3), pages 395-434.
  6. Michael A. Clemens, 2009. "Skill Flow: A Fundamental Reconsideration of Skilled-Worker Mobility and Development," Human Development Research Papers (2009 to present) HDRP-2009-08, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), revised Apr 2009.
  7. George J. Borjas, 2003. "The Labor Demand Curve is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 9755, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Brian, McCaig, 2011. "Exporting out of poverty: Provincial poverty in Vietnam and U.S. market access," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 102-113, September.
  9. Michael Clemens, 2007. "Do Visas Kill? Health Effects of African Health Professional Emigration," Working Papers 114, Center for Global Development.
  10. Barry Eichengreen & Douglas A. Irwin, 2009. "The Slide to Protectionism in the Great Depression: Who Succumbed and Why?," NBER Working Papers 15142, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  13. Bergin, Paul R. & Glick, Reuven, 2007. "Global price dispersion: Are prices converging or diverging?," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 703-729, September.
  14. Bailey, Martha J. & Collins, William J., 2006. "The Wage Gains of African-American Women in the 1940s," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(03), pages 737-777, September.
  15. Michael Clemens & Claudio Montenegro & Lant Pritchett, 2008. "The Place Premium: Wage Differences for Identical Workers across the U.S. Border," Working Papers 148, Center for Global Development.
  16. Mishra, Prachi, 2007. "Emigration and wages in source countries: Evidence from Mexico," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 180-199, January.
  17. Ottaviano, Gianmarco & Peri, Giovanni, 2008. "Immigration and National Wages: Clarifying the Theory and the Empirics," CEPR Discussion Papers 6916, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. Servaas van der Berg & Megan Louw, 2003. "Changing Patterns of South African income distribution: Towards time series estimates of distribution and poverty," Working Papers 02/2003, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  19. Slaughter, Matthew J, 1997. "Per Capita Income Convergence and the Role of International Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 194-99, May.
  20. Dennis Görlich & Toman Omar Mahmoud & Christoph Trebesch, 2007. "Explaining Labour Market Inactivity in Migrant-Sending Families: Housework, Hammock, or Higher Education," Kiel Working Papers 1391, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  21. Patricia Cortes, 2008. "The Effect of Low-Skilled Immigration on U.S. Prices: Evidence from CPI Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(3), pages 381-422, 06.
  22. Timothy Miller & Ronald Lee, 2000. "Immigration, Social Security, and Broader Fiscal Impacts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 350-354, May.
  23. Michael Clemens & Lant Pritchett, 2008. "Income per natural: Measuring development as if people mattered more than places," Working Papers 143, Center for Global Development.
  24. Dean Yang, 2008. "International Migration, Remittances and Household Investment: Evidence from Philippine Migrants' Exchange Rate Shocks," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(528), pages 591-630, 04.
  25. DavidG. Blanchflower & Chris Shadforth, 2009. "Fear, Unemployment and Migration," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(535), pages F136-F182, 02.
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  28. Philip Oreopoulos & Alan J. Auerbach, 1999. "Analyzing the Fiscal Impact of U.S. Immigration," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 176-180, May.
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  30. Richard B. FREEMAN & Remco H. OOSTENDORP, 2001. "The Occupational Wages around the World data file," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 140(4), pages 379-401, December.
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  32. Michael A. Clemens & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2004. "Why did the Tariff--Growth Correlation Change after 1950?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 5-46, 03.
  33. Kenny, Charles, 2005. "Why Are We Worried About Income? Nearly Everything that Matters is Converging," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 1-19, January.
  34. Clark, Gregory, 1987. "Why Isn't the Whole World Developed? Lessons from the Cotton Mills," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(01), pages 141-173, March.
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