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Migration and Development


Migration and Development

While most of the rich-world migration debate focuses on how migrants affect the places they move to, CGD conducts rigorous, independent research to examine the effects of labor mobility on migrants themselves and their places of origin.
People have always migrated to improve their lives. Today, movements from developing countries to other parts of the world are of intense interest to many policymakers, yet relatively little is known about the impacts of labor mobility on the people who move and their home societies. CGD works to address this problem by collecting and sharing new data and by bringing empirical results to a debate that has too often been conducted in an evidence-free zone. We then use these findings to identify ways in which rich-world immigration policy could be made more development-friendly. CGD research fellow Michael Clemens leads this work.

The CGD Commission on Migration Data

CGD is working to increase the availability of high-quality data on migration. In 2009, our Commission on Migration Data for Development Research issued Migrants Count: Five Steps Toward Better International Migration Data. The report details low-cost measures that countries and relevant international organizations can take to gather and share migration data to give researchers and policymakers a much clearer picture of who is moving where.

Key Questions about Migration and Development

Much of the development-oriented research on labor mobility has focused on workers’ remittances and their transactions costs. While this work has been extremely valuable, the bulk of the development impact of labor mobility lies elsewhere, and remains poorly understood. Many questions remain open:
·         How can creative immigration policies reconcile the vast and mounting pressure for greater labor mobility with the strong objections voiced in many rich countries?
·         How should systems of higher education in sending and receiving countries change to suit a world in which professionals are increasingly mobile?
·         How can rich-country policies encourage the formation of commercial and intellectual links between low-income-country emigrants and their places of origin and increase the development benefits of such links?

Preliminary Answers

Let Their People Come

CGD research has begun to provide initial answers to these questions. Non-resident fellow Lant Pritchett, in Let Their People Come, suggests concrete ways that a more development-friendly migration policy can be politically feasible. Devesh Kapur and John McHale gather evidence on development impacts of skilled-worker migration and place it within a clear framework in Give Us Your Best and Brightest.

While migration has long been a central tool in the battle against global poverty and inequality, the heated political debate over immigration reform largely fails to recognize this. In Don't Close the Golden Door: Our Noisy Debate on Immigration and Its Deathly Silence on Development , Clemens and co-author Sami Bazzi outline five major reasons why migration is a development issue today and suggest a policy agenda for the U.S. administration.

Give Us Your Best and BrightestWe aim to continually extend and refine our understanding of this critical topic through rigorous research conducted in cooperation with some of the world’s top migration scholars. We believe that good research begets good ideas, and good ideas can deliver a win-win-win proposition: for migrants, receiving countries, and sending countries.

Learn more by watching Clemens’ video talk, The Biggest Idea in Development that No One Really Tried?