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Technological Superiority and the Losses from Migration


  • Donald R. Davis
  • David E. Weinstein


Two facts motivate this study. (1) The United States is the world's most productive economy. (2) The US is the destination for a broad range of net factor inflows: unskilled labor, skilled labor, and capital. Indeed, these two facts may be strongly related: All factors seek to enter the US because of the US technological superiority. The literature on international factor flows rarely links these two phenomena, instead considering one-at-a-time analyses that stress issues of relative factor abundance. This is unfortunate, since the welfare calculations differ markedly. In a simple Ricardian framework, a country that experiences immigration of factors motivated by technological differences always loses from this migration relative to a free trade baseline, while the other country gains. We provide simple calculations suggesting that the magnitude of the losses for US natives may be quite large $72 billion dollars per year or 0.8 percent of GDP.

Suggested Citation

  • Donald R. Davis & David E. Weinstein, 2002. "Technological Superiority and the Losses from Migration," NBER Working Papers 8971, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8971
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Islam, Nazrul, 1999. "International Comparison of Total Factor Productivity: A Review," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 45(4), pages 493-518, December.
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    4. Harrigan, James, 1997. "Technology, Factor Supplies, and International Specialization: Estimating the Neoclassical Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(4), pages 475-494, September.
    5. Daniel Trefler, 1997. "Immigrants and Natives in General Equilibrium Trade Models," NBER Working Papers 6209, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. G. D. A. MacDougall, 1960. "THE BENEFITS and COSTS OF PRIVATE INVESTMENT FROM ABROAD: A THEORETICAL APPROACH," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 36(73), pages 13-35, March.
    7. Rachel M. Friedberg & Jennifer Hunt, 1995. "The Impact of Immigrants on Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 23-44, Spring.
    8. Borjas, George J., 1999. "The economic analysis of immigration," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1697-1760 Elsevier.
    9. Lutz Hendricks, 2002. "How Important Is Human Capital for Development? Evidence from Immigrant Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 198-219, March.
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    13. Nazrul Islam, 2001. "Different Approaches to International Comparison of Total Factor Productivity," NBER Chapters,in: New Developments in Productivity Analysis, pages 465-508 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Bowen, Harry P & Leamer, Edward E & Sveikauskas, Leo, 1987. "Multicountry, Multifactor Tests of the Factor Abundance Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 791-809, December.
    15. John M. Abowd & Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abow91-1, January.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F2 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers

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