In the popular immigration narrative, migrants leave one country and establish themselves permanently in another, creating a “brain drain” in the sending country. In reality, migration is typically temporary: Workers migrate, find employment, and then return home or move on, often multiple times. Sending countries benefit from remittances while workers are abroad and from enhanced human capital when they return, while receiving countries fill labor shortages. Policies impeding circular migration can be costly to both sending and receiving countries.
Migration and ethnicity
Mobility is important for the functioning of markets and society. Migration deals with issues of national and international mobility, such as demand and supply, and what migration means for natives and migrants and for sending and receiving countries.
Daniel S. Hamermesh Royal Holloway University of London, UK, and IZA, Germany
George Borjas Harvard University, USA, and IZA, Germany
Barry Chiswick George Washington University, USA, and IZA, Germany
Deborah Cobb-Clark University of Melbourne, Australia, and IZA, Germany
Denis Fougère CREST, France, and IZA, Germany
Shi Li Beijing Normal University, China, and IZA, Germany
Neither public opinion nor evidence-based research supports the claim of some politicians and the media that immigrants take the jobs of native-born workers. Public opinion polls in six migrant-destination countries after the 2008–2009 recession show that most people believe that immigrants fill job vacancies and many believe that they create jobs and do not take jobs from native workers. This view is corroborated by evidence-based research showing that immigrants—of all skill levels—do not significantly affect native employment in the short term and boost employment in the long term.
Restricting immigration to young and skilled immigrants using a point system, as in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, succeeds in selecting economically desirable immigrants and provides orderly management of population growth. But the point system cannot fix short-term skilled labor shortages in a timely manner nor prevent poor labor market outcomes for immigrants, since domestic employers can undervalue schooling and work experience acquired abroad. Furthermore, the efficacy of a point system can be compromised if unscreened visa categories receive higher priority.
The proportion of foreign-born people in rich countries has tripled since 1960, and the emigration of high-skilled people from poor countries has accelerated. Many countries intensify their efforts to attract and retain foreign students, which increases the risk of brain drain in the sending countries. In poor countries, this transfer can change the skill structure of the labor force, cause labor shortages, and affect fiscal policy, but it can also generate remittances and other benefits from expatriates and returnees. Overall, it can be a boon or a curse for developing countries, depending on the country’s characteristics and policy objectives.
by Brian Bell
Immigration is one of the most important policy debates in Western countries. However, one aspect of the debate is often mischaracterized by accusations that higher levels of immigration lead to higher levels of crime. The evidence, based on empirical studies of many countries, indicates that there is no simple link between immigration and crime, but legalizing the status of immigrants has beneficial effects on crime rates. Crucially, the evidence points to substantial differences in the impact on property crime, depending on the labor market opportunities of immigrant groups.
The Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe—as well as one of the most disadvantaged. A triple vicious circle is at play: Substandard socio-economic outcomes reinforce each other; they fuel negative attitudes and perceptions, leading to ill-chosen policies; and segmentation is perpetuated through (statistical) discrimination. A severe lack of data precludes progress. However, existing bits of evidence point to virtuous ways out.
Studies for major immigrant-receiving countries provide evidence on the comparative economic performance of immigrant classes (skill-, kinship-, and humanitarian-based). Developed countries are increasingly competing for high-skilled immigrants, who perform better in the labor market. However, there are serious challenges to their economic integration, which highlights a need for complementary immigration and integration policies.
Politicians, the media, and the public express concern that immigrants depress wages by competing with native workers, but 30 years of empirical research provide little supporting evidence to this claim. Most studies for industrialized countries have found no effect on wages, on average, and only modest effects on wage differentials between more and less educated immigrant and native workers. Native workers’ wages have been insulated by differences in skills, adjustments in local demand and technology, production expansion, and specialization of native workers as immigration rises.
Empirical studies have found that achieving superdiversity—a substantial increase in the scale and scope of minority ethnic and immigrant groups in a region—can provide certain economic benefits, such as higher levels of worker productivity and innovation. Superdiversity can also provide a boost to local demand for goods and services. Other studies have found that these benefits can be compromised by political and populist anxieties about ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity.
by Ulf Rinne
The use of anonymous job applications to combat hiring discrimination is gaining attention and interest. Results from a number of field experiments in European countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden are considered here) shed light on their potential to reduce some of the discriminatory barriers to hiring for minority and other disadvantaged groups. But although this approach can achieve its primary aims, there are also some cautions to consider.
Taxpayer effects are a central part of the total economic costs and benefits of immigration, but they have not received much study. These effects are the additional or lower taxes paid by native-born households due to the difference between tax revenues paid and benefits received by immigrant households. The effects vary considerably by immigrant attributes and level of government involvement, with costs usually diminishing greatly over the long term as immigrants integrate fully into society.
Anti-discrimination policies play an important role in public discussions. However, identifying discriminatory practices in the labor market is not an easy task. Correspondence testing provides a credible way to reveal discrimination in hiring and provide hard facts for policies. The method involves sending matched pairs of identical job applications to employers posting jobs—the only difference being a characteristic that signals membership to a group.
Since the 1990s, South Korea’s population has been aging and its fertility rate has fallen. At the same time, the number of Koreans living abroad has risen considerably. These trends threaten to diminish South Korea’s international and economic stature. To mitigate the negative effects of these new challenges, South Korea has begun to engage the seven million Koreans living abroad, transforming the diaspora into a positive force for long-term development.
Contrary to the welfare magnet hypothesis, empirical evidence suggests that immigration decisions are not made on the basis of the relative generosity of the receiving nation’s social benefits. Even when immigrants are found to use welfare more intensively than natives, the gap is mostly attributable to differences in social and demographic characteristics between immigrants and non-immigrants rather than to immigration status per se. Moreover, evidence in some countries suggests that immigrants exhibit less welfare dependency than natives, despite facing a higher risk of poverty.
by Holger Hinte
Do migration policies affect whether immigrants contribute more to public finances than they receive as transfer payments? Yes. But simply accumulating the annual fiscal transfers to and fiscal contributions by migrants is not sufficient to identify the policy impact and the potential need for reform. What is also required is measuring the present value of taxes contributed and transfers received by individuals over their lifespans. Results underscore the need for, and the economic benefits of, active migration and integration strategies.
by Pia Orrenius
Border enforcement of immigration laws attempts to raise the costs of illegal immigration, while interior enforcement also lowers the benefits. Border and interior enforcement therefore reduce the net benefits of illegal immigration and should lower the probability that an individual will decide to migrate. While some empirical studies find that border and interior enforcement serve as significant deterrents to illegal immigration, immigration enforcement is costly and carries significant unintended consequences, such as an increase in fraudulent and falsified documents and rising border death rates as migrants undertake more dangerous crossings.
by Murat Genç
International trade and migration are two important dimensions of globalization. Although governments have been very willing to open their borders to trade, they have not been so liberal in their immigration policies. It has been suggested, however, that a causal positive link might exist between immigration and trade. Could governments further increase international trade by also opening their doors to immigrants? If they could, does it matter what type of immigrants are encouraged? And is there a saturation level of immigrants after which this positive impact disappears?
To expand the skilled workforce, countries need to attract skilled migrants. One way of doing this is by attracting and retaining international students. Empirical evidence suggests that concerns about brain drain—that is, the emigration of highly qualified workers—are overblown and that student migration can positively affect economic growth in both sending and receiving countries. However, migrants themselves reap most of the gains, through higher earnings. So that in the end, international student mobility can be beneficial for all participants: migrating students and those who remain at home, as well as home and host societies.
The recent EU enlargements into Central and Eastern Europe and increased labor mobility within the Union provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the labor market effects of emigration. Outmigration has contributed to higher wages for stayers, as well as to lower unemployment in the source country. However, emigration has also exacerbated skills shortages in some sectors, as well as mismatches between skills and jobs.
Immigrants are widely perceived to be highly entrepreneurial, contributing to economic growth and innovation, and self-employment is often viewed as a means of enhancing labor market integration and success among immigrants. Accordingly, many countries have established special visas and entry requirements to attract immigrant entrepreneurs. Research supports some of these stances, but expectations may be too high. There is no strong evidence that self-employment is an effective tool of upward economic mobility among low-skilled immigrants. More broadly prioritizing high-skilled immigrants may prove to be more successful than focusing on entrepreneurship.
by John Kennan
Most developed countries have foreign aid programs that aim to alleviate poverty and foster economic growth in less developed countries, but with very limited success. A large body of evidence indicates that the root of the economic development problem is cross-country differences in the productivity of labor. If workers are much more productive in one country than in another, the obvious way to help people in less developed countries is to allow them to help themselves by moving to places where they can be more productive. Yet immigration laws severely constrain such movement.
Happy people are healthier and more creative, productive, and sociable. Because of these positive effects of happiness, it is in the interest of countries to attract and retain happy people. With respect to the decision to migrate, the central question becomes whether people who are happier and more satisfied with their lives are more or less likely to migrate. The evidence so far is mixed. Correlational studies find that prospective migrants are less happy than people who are not intending to migrate, while one study controlling for reverse causality suggests that the desire to migrate increases with life satisfaction.
Public debate on immigration focuses on its effects on wages and employment, yet the discussion typically fails to consider the effects of immigration on working conditions that affect workers’ health. There is growing evidence that immigrants are more likely than natives to work in risky jobs, as they are more inclined to take on physically intensive tasks. Recent studies show that as immigration rises, native workers are pushed into less demanding jobs. Such market adjustments have positive impacts on the health of the native workers.
Remittances have risen spectacularly in recent decades, capturing the attention of researchers and policymakers and spurring debate on their pros and cons. Remittances can improve the well-being of family members left behind and boost the economies of receiving countries. They can also create a culture of dependency in the receiving country, lowering labor force participation, promoting conspicuous consumption, and slowing economic growth. A better understanding of their impacts is needed in order to formulate specific policy measures that will enable developing economies to get the greatest benefit from these monetary inflows.
Population aging will continue in the future, in both developed and developing countries. This may lead to lower migration, since the desire to migrate declines later in the life cycle. In addition, indirect labor demand effects may also reduce migration. However, migration of the elderly, return retirement migration, as well as mobility of certain specialist workers such as health and longer-term care providers, may increase. Also, in a family context, the emigration of children may have significant consequences for the elderly left behind, both in terms of poverty risk and health care.
In common anti-immigrant rhetoric, concerns are raised that immigrants bring diseases with them to the host country that threaten the health of the resident population. In reality, extensive empirical research over several decades and across multiple regions and host countries has documented that when immigrants arrive in the host country they are healthier than native residents, a phenomenon termed the “healthy immigrant effect.” This initial advantage deteriorates with time spent in the host country, however, and immigrants’ health status converges toward (or below) that of native residents.
According to economic theory, a minimum wage reduces the number of low-wage jobs and increases the number of available workers, allowing greater hiring selectivity. More competition for a smaller number of low-wage jobs will disadvantage immigrants if employers perceive them as less skilled than native-born workers—and vice versa. Studies indicate that a higher minimum wage does not hurt immigrants, but there is no consensus on whether immigrants benefit at the expense of natives. Studies also reach disparate conclusions on whether higher minimum wages attract or repel immigrants.
With the aging of populations, particularly in more developed countries, retirees are becoming a politically influential group. Government budgets have been feeling the strain on social insurance, health care, and other programs that benefit the elderly. Yet spending on these programs has often come at the expense of other programs such as education, which benefit primarily the younger population. Attracting retirees has been viewed as an important avenue of economic development, with positive impacts on revenue and expenditure. However, it can also have a negative impact on education spending potentially resulting in intergenerational fiscal conflict.
by Ana Ferrer
What is the role of married women in immigrant households? Their contribution to the labor market has traditionally been considered of secondary importance and studied in the framework of temporary attachment to the labor force to support the household around the time of arrival. But this role has changed. Evidence from major immigrant-receiving countries suggests that married immigrant women make labor supply decisions similar to those recently observed for native-born married women, who are guided by their own opportunities in the labor market rather than by their spouses’ employment trajectories.
by Ken Clark
In many countries, ethnic minority groups are over-represented in self-employment compared with the majority community. The kind of work done by minority entrepreneurs can therefore be an important driver of the economic well-being of their ethnic group. Furthermore, growing the self-employment sector is a policy objective for many governments, which see it as a source of innovation, economic growth, and employment. While self-employment might offer economic opportunities to minority groups, it is important to understand the factors that underlie the nature and extent of ethnic entrepreneurship to evaluate whether policy measures should support it.
Income inequality is a critical issue in both political and public debate. Educational attainment is a key causal factor of continuing inequality, since it influences human capital accumulation and, as a consequence, the unequal distribution of earnings. Educational inequality displays a racial dimension that is particularly persistent and difficult to eradicate through policy measures. Its roots lie in the colonial institution of slave labor, which was widespread in the US and Latin America up until the 19th century. However, the influence of slavery differs significantly across countries and between regions.
Return migration can have multiple benefits. It allows migrants who have accumulated savings abroad to ease credit constraints at home and set up a business. Also, emigrants from developing countries who have invested in their human capital may earn higher wages when they return. However, whether the home country benefits from return migrants depends on the migrant’s success in accumulating savings and human capital and on the home country’s ability to make use of returnees’ skills and investment. To benefit from returnees, home countries need policies that encourage returnees’ investment and labor market reintegration.
by Tim Hatton
Policy toward asylum-seekers has been controversial. Since the late 1990s, the EU has been developing a Common European Asylum System, but without clearly identifying the basis for cooperation. Providing a safe haven for refugees can be seen as a public good and this provides the rationale for policy coordination between governments. But where the volume of applications differs widely across countries, policy harmonization is not sufficient. Burden-sharing measures are needed as well, in order to achieve an optimal distribution of refugees across member states. Such policies are economically desirable and are more politically feasible than is sometimes believed.
Politicians, the media, and the public express concern that many immigrants fail to integrate economically. Research shows that the option to naturalize has considerable economic benefits for eligible immigrants, even in countries with a tradition of restrictive policies. First-generation immigrants who are naturalized have higher earnings and more stable jobs. The gains from citizenship are particularly apparent among immigrants from poorer countries. A key policy question is whether naturalization causes labor market success or is taken up by those immigrants who would anyway be most likely to succeed in the labor market.
Many countries are reviewing immigration policy, focusing on wage and employment effects for workers whose jobs may be threatened by immigration. Less attention is given to effects on prices of goods and services. The effect on childcare prices is particularly relevant to policies for dealing with the gender pay gap and below-replacement fertility rates, both thought to be affected by the difficulty of combining work and family. New research suggests immigration lowers the cost of household services and high-skilled women respond by working more or having more children.
The majority of immigrants stay only temporarily in the host country. When many migrations are temporary, it is important to know who leaves and who stays, and why. The key questions for the host country are whether immigrants are net contributors to the welfare system and whether migrants assimilate quickly. The key questions for the home country are whether migrants return and who returns. The host country gains when unsuccessful migrants leave, while the home country may gain when successful migrants leave. Empirical evidence reveals that both low-income-earning and high-income-earning migrants leave the host country quite soon.
About a billion people worldwide live and work outside their country of birth or outside their region of birth within their own country. Labor migration is conventionally viewed as economically benefiting the family members who are left behind through remittances. However, splitting up families in this way may also have multiple adverse effects on education, health, labor supply response, and social status for family members who do not migrate. Identifying the causal impact of migration on those who are left behind remains a challenging empirical question with inconclusive evidence.
by Horst Entorf
As global migration flows increase, so do the number of migrant students in host country schools. Yet migrants’ achievement scores lag well behind those of their native-born schoolmates. Performance gaps are explained largely by differences in migrant parents’ socio-economic background, cultural capital, and language skills. Education policy needs to focus on language teaching, parental involvement, diversity training, and beneficial social interaction between immigrant and native-born populations. With the wealth of many industrialized countries threatened by a lack of qualified labor, education of immigrants should be an important priority.
An increase in the minimum wage in immigrant destination countries raises the earnings that low-skilled migrants could expect to attain if they were to migrate. While some studies for the US indicate that a higher minimum wage induces immigration, contrasting evidence shows that immigrants are less likely to move into areas with higher or more frequent increases in the minimum wage. These different findings seem to reflect different relocation decisions by immigrants who have lived in the US for several years, who are more likely to move in response to higher minimum wages, and by new immigrants, who are less likely to move.
Immigrants contribute to the economic development of the host country, but they earn less at entry and it takes many years for them to achieve parity of income. For some immigrant groups, the wage gap never closes. There is a wide variation across countries in the entry wage gap and the speed of wage assimilation over time. Wage assimilation is affected by year of entry, immigrant skill, ethnicity, and gender. Policies that facilitate assimilation of immigrant workers provide support for education, language, and employment. Such policies can also reduce barriers to entry, encourage naturalization, and target selection of immigrants.
Marriages between immigrants and natives (intermarriages) are often associated with economic success and interpreted as an indicator of social integration. Intermarried immigrant men are on average better educated and work in better paid jobs than nonintermarried immigrant men. In this context, native spouses could deliver valuable insights into the host country and provide business contacts. However, intermarriage may not be the driving factor of economic success but instead be its byproduct, as better education and personal characteristics could be both economically beneficial and increase the likelihood of meeting natives. Intermarriage might also be more “suspense-packed” (positively and negatively) and can thus be associated with an increase in severe stress and a higher risk of divorce.
As migration flows to developed countries have increased in recent decades, so have the number of countries from which migrants arrive. Thus, it is increasingly important to consider what role differences in culture and language play in migration decisions. Recent work shows that culture and language may explain migration patterns to developed countries even better than traditional economic variables, such as income per capita and unemployment rates in destination and origin countries. Differences in culture and language may create barriers that prevent the full realization of the potential economic gains from international mobility.
The impact of offshoring on domestic jobs is more complicated than it first appears. In the standard narrative, offshoring production is thought to harm domestic workers by providing cheap alternative sources of labor. However, while offshoring may directly displace domestic workers, the resulting foreign market access and lower production costs allow domestic firms to increase efficiency, expand production, and thus create new jobs for domestic workers. These new jobs often involve more complex tasks, as revealed by the positive relation between the share of offshored jobs and the average cognitive and interactive task content of domestic jobs.
Language proficiency is a key driver of immigrant integration. It increases job opportunities and facilitates social and political participation. However, despite its vital importance, many immigrants never reach adequate proficiency in the host country language. Therefore, insights into the underlying processes and associated factors are crucial for designing measures to improve language acquisition. Empirical evidence shows that immigrants differ in their ability to learn languages, in their experience of everyday language usage, and their incentives to learn host country languages. This offers a range of opportunities for public policy intervention.
by Semih Tumen
Estimating the causal effect of immigration on the labor market outcomes of native workers has been a major concern in the literature. Because immigrants decide whether and where to migrate, immigrant populations generally consist of individuals with characteristics that differ from those of a randomly selected sample. One solution is to focus on events such as civil wars and natural catastrophes that generate rapid and unexpected flows of refugees into a country unrelated to their personal characteristics, location, and employment preferences. These “natural experiments” yield estimates that find small negative effects on native workers’ employment but not on wages.
Knowing whether corruption leads to higher emigration rates—and among which groups—is important because most labor emigration is from developing to developed countries. If corruption leads highly-skilled and highly-educated workers to leave developing countries, it can result in a shortage of skilled labor and slower economic growth. In turn, this leads to higher unemployment, lowering the returns to human capital and encouraging further emigration. Corruption also shifts public spending from health and education to sectors with less transparency in spending, disadvantaging lower-skilled workers and encouraging them to emigrate.
by Peter Jensen
Many countries are experiencing increasing inflows of immigrant students. This raises concerns that having a large share of students for whom the host country language is not their first language may have detrimental effects on the educational outcomes of native children. However, the evidence is mixed, with some studies finding negative effects, and others finding no effects. Whether higher concentrations of immigrant students have an effect on native students differs across countries according to factors such as organization of the school system and immigrants’ socio-economic background.
Most comparative research suggests that immigrants from post-socialist countries earn less than natives, work in jobs for which they are overqualified, and may experience unhappiness compared with natives, other immigrants, and non-migrants. In contrast, one study presents causal evidence which shows that moving from transition economies to live in the West increases the incomes, life satisfaction, and freedom perceptions of those who move. Credibly assessing whether leaving transition economies improves movers’ quality of life remains a challenging empirical question.
The occupational choice of return migrants is important to their home country. Return migrants are likely to have acquired human capital while abroad, either through formal training or by working in a more efficient labor market. The employment of these newly acquired skills in the home country can have important economic implications. Examining the choice of return migrants to engage in wage employment, self- employment, entrepreneurial activity, or to remain out of the labor market makes it possible to ascertain whether the initial migration decision benefited the home country as well as the migrants and their families.
Many immigrant destination countries face considerable pressure to change their immigration policies. One of the most innovative policies is auctioning the right to immigrate or to hire a foreign worker to the highest bidders. Visa auctions would be more efficient than current ways of allocating visas, could boost the economic contribution of immigration to the destination country, and would increase government revenues. However, visa auctions might weaken the importance of family ties in the migration process and create concerns about fairness and accessibility. No country has yet auctioned visas.
Immigration officials in rich countries are being asked to become overseas development officials, charged with preventing skilled workers from leaving poor countries, where their skills are needed. Some advocates urge restrictions or taxes on the emigration of doctors and engineers from developing countries. Others urge incentives to encourage skilled workers to remain or return home or policies to facilitate their interactions with home countries. Regulations often reflect compassionate and political sentiments without clear evidence that the regulations achieve the desired development goals and avoid pernicious side effects.
Demographic factors in migrant-sending countries can influence international migration flows. But when migrants move across borders, they can also influence the pace of demographic transition in their countries of origin. This is because migrants, who predominantly move on a temporary basis, encounter new fertility norms in their host countries and then bring them back home. These new fertility norms can be higher or lower than those in their country of origin. So the new fertility norms that result from migration flows can either accelerate or slow down a demographic transition in migrant-sending countries.
In today’s globalized world, people are increasingly mobile and often need to communicate across different languages. Learning a new language is an investment in human capital. Migrants must learn the language of their destination country, but even non-migrants must often learn other languages if their work involves communicating with foreigners. Economic studies have shown that fluency in a dominant language is important to economic success and increases economic efficiency. However, maintaining linguistic diversity also has value since language is also an expression of people’s culture.
The growth in the number and in the size of remittances and the stability of these monetary transfers have made them a prime target for policymakers. Because remittance flows go directly to households in emigrants’ home countries, one has to wonder about their effects on household decision-making, particularly in relation to the number of children to have. While this is household specific, when considered at the community and country level, there are significant policy implications for remittance-receiving economies. Therefore, it is crucial to more fully understand the relationship between remittance inflows and fertility rates.
How migration affects labor markets in receiving countries is well understood, but less is known about how migration affects labor markets in sending countries, particularly the wages of workers who do not emigrate. Most studies find that emigration increases wages in the sending country but only for non-emigrants with substitutable skills similar to those of emigrants; non-emigrants with different (complementary) skills lose. These wage reactions are short-term effects, however. If a country loses many highly educated workers, the economy can become less productive altogether, leading to lower wages for everyone in the long term.
by Jacques Poot
The ongoing relationships between emigrants and their families, friends, and business contacts in their home countries can increase outbound and inbound cross-border travel, while cross-border tourism and business and study trips can trigger migration. New communication technologies, such as social media and video chat, only partially substitute for face-to-face meetings. In fact, the greater use of such technologies boosts demand for in-person meetings. Short- and long-term cross-border movements are becoming more complex, creating challenges for measuring immigration and for defining target populations for legislation and public policy.
by Laura Argys
Upon arrival in a host country, immigrants often have lower obesity rates (as measured for instance by BMI—body mass index) than their native counterparts do, but these rates converge over time. In light of the worldwide obesity epidemic and the flow of immigrants into host countries with higher obesity rates, it is important to understand the consequences of such assimilation. Policymakers could benefit from a discussion of the impact of immigrant obesity on labor market outcomes and the use of public services. In particular, policies could find ways to improve immigrants’ access to health care for both the prevention and treatment of obesity.
Migrants’ remittances to developing countries have increased in recent decades, partly due to reduced transactions costs and improved living conditions in host countries. The feminization of international migration represents yet another explanation. Despite the difficulties female migrants encounter in the labor market, their total remittances may be higher and more resilient than those of male migrants, owing to these women’s stronger links to family members left behind and self-insurance motives. Policymakers need to understand how this new and significant upward trend in female migration could affect the economic and social development of home countries.
by Raul Ramos
Gravity models have long been popular for analyzing economic phenomena related to the movement of goods and services, capital, or even people; however, data limitations regarding migration flows have hindered their use in this context. With access to improved bilateral (country to country) data, researchers can now use gravity models to better assess the impacts of migration policy, for instance, the effects of visa restriction policies on migration flows. The specification, estimation, and interpretation of gravity models are illustrated in different contexts and limitations of current practices are described to enable policymakers to make better informed decisions.
The unequal distribution of refugees across countries could unravel the international refugee protection system or, in the case of the EU, hinder a common policy response to refugee crises. A way to distribute refugees efficiently, while respecting their rights, is to combine two market mechanisms. First, a market for tradable refugee admission quotas that allows refugees to be established wherever it is less costly to do so. Second, a matching system that links refugees to their preferred destinations, and host countries to their preferred types of refugees. The proposal is efficient but has yet to be tested in practice.
Addressing unauthorized immigration is controversial. Countries have adopted a variety of legalization programs, ranging from temporary visa programs to naturalization. Research in the US focused on past amnesty programs finds improved labor market outcomes for newly legalized immigrants. Findings are more mixed for European countries. Studies suggest that regularization of undocumented immigrants can result in increased use of public benefits and reduced formal labor market participation. Despite widespread disagreement, legalization is widely used in practice.
For the first time since the Second World War, the total number of refugees amounts to more than 50 million people. Only a minority of these refugees seek asylum, and even fewer resettle in developed countries. At the same time, politicians, the media, and the public are worried about a lack of economic integration. Refugees start at a lower employment and income level, but subsequently “catch up” to the level of family unification migrants. However, both refugees and family migrants do not “catch up” to the economic integration levels of labor migrants. A faster integration process would significantly benefit refugees and their new host countries.
More than 100 million women and girls in the world have had their genitals cut for cultural, religious, or other non-medical reasons. Even though international organizations condemn female genital mutilation (FGM), or cutting, as a violation of human rights, and most nations have banned it, it remains prevalent in many African countries, and is slow to decline. This persistence raises questions about the effectiveness of international and national laws prohibiting the practice as well as the potential role of returning migrants in changing embedded cultural norms. Does migration change migrants’ opinions and attitudes to this custom? If so, do they transfer the new norms to their origin countries?
Immigrants can initially face significant difficulties integrating into the economy of the host country, due to information gaps about the local labor market, limited language proficiency, and unfamiliarity with the local culture. Settlement in a region where economic and social networks based on familiar cultural or language factors (“ethnic capital”) exist provides an effective strategy for economic integration. As international migration into culturally diverse countries increases, ethnic networks will be important considerations in managing immigration selection, language proficiency requirements, and regional economic policies.
International labor mobility has resulted in sweeping socio-economic changes in many developing countries. When a family member migrates for work and sends back remittances, household income may rise, and with it investment in children’s schooling. Emigration flows may also alter local labor market conditions and wage rates, which can in turn affect children’s labor supply. Whether there is more or less child labor as a result of migration may depend on the skill composition of the migrants and on how family members respond to wage changes.
Immigrants are typically not evenly distributed within host countries; instead they tend to cluster in particular neighborhoods. But does clustering in ethnic enclaves help explain the persistent differences in employment rates and earnings between immigrants and the native population? Empirical studies consistently find that residing in an enclave can increase earnings. While it is still ambiguous whether mainly low-skilled immigrants benefit, or whether employment probabilities are affected, it is clear that effects are driven by enclave “quality” (in terms of income, education, and employment rates) rather than enclave size.
by Aslan Zorlu
Evidence suggests that immigrants face an initial decline in their occupational status when they enter the host country labor market but that their position improves as they acquire more country-specific human, cultural, and occupational capital. High-skilled immigrants from countries that are economically, linguistically, and culturally different from the host country experience the greatest decline and the steepest subsequent increase in their occupational status. In the context of sharp international competition to attract high-skilled immigrants, this adjustment pattern is contradictory and discourages potential high-skilled migrants.
Migration policies need to consider how immigration affects investment behavior and productivity, and how these effects vary with the type of migration. College-educated immigrants may do more to stimulate foreign direct investment and research and development than low-skilled immigrants, and productivity effects would be expected to be highest for immigrants in scientific and engineering fields. By raising the demand for housing, immigration also spurs residential investment. However, residential investment is unlikely to expand enough to prevent housing costs from rising, which has implications for income distribution in society.
Millions of people enter (or remain in) countries without permission as they flee violence, war, or economic hardship. Regularization policies that offer residence and work rights have multiple and multi-layered effects on the economy and society, but they always directly affect the labor market opportunities of those who are regularized. Large numbers of undocumented people in many countries, a new political willingness to fight for human and civil rights, and dramatically increasing refugee flows mean continued pressure to enact regularization policies.
As migration rates increase across the world, the choice of whether to retire in the host or home country is becoming a key decision for up to 15% of the world’s population, and this proportion is growing rapidly. Large waves of immigrants who re-settled in the second half of the 20th century are now beginning to retire. Although immigrants’ location choice at retirement is an area that has barely been studied, this decision has crucial implications for health care and social protection expenditures, both in host and origin countries.
The number of immigrants from developing countries living in richer, more developed countries has increased substantially during the last decades. At the same time, the quality of institutions in developing countries has also improved. The data thus suggest a close positive correlation between average emigration rates and institutional quality. Recent empirical literature investigates whether international migration can be an important factor for institutional development. Overall, the findings indicate that emigration to institutionally developed countries induces a positive effect on home-country institutions.
Citizenship laws are changing in many countries. Although cross-national differences in the laws regulating access to citizenship are today not as large as they were several decades ago, they are still very apparent. Globally, there is convergence over some citizenship policy dimensions, but there is not a general convergence over “liberal” or “restrictive” approaches to citizenship policy. A growing body of research has put forward various comparative measures of citizenship and migrant integration policies. However, selecting the “right” index is a challenging task, and the underlying dynamics of citizenship laws are not easy to interpret as they differ across countries.
Europe needs to open up legal routes for African migrants to work on the continent in order to reduce the number of those losing their lives in perilous Mediterranean crossings, according to the Inter...
by Daniel S. Hamermesh
The implications of the UK’s decision to leave the EU are unclear, and will depend on what happens politically once the dust has settled. The transition to a new relationship between the UK and ...
by The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration
Migration plays a vital role in today’s global economy. With 3.3% of the total world population comprising migrants, they constitute a key demographic with great appeal to businesses, both as a ...
by Jesús Fernández-Huertas Moraga
Can market mechanisms solve the refugee crisis? In one word: No. It will take more than one policy to solve the escalating humanitarian and political crisis currently facing Europe. However, market me...
by Tony Fang
Improving the integration of immigrants into the labor market is beneficial to the immigrants themselves, but also to the immigrant-receiving nation as a whole, due to the generally positive impact th...
by Friedrich Schneider
Corruption is a driving force of emigration; this is especially true for highly skilled workers, but is present within other groups of workers too. Knowing whether corruption leads to higher emigratio...
by Amelie Constant
Each year on December 18, we observe International Migrants Day. Established by the UN General Assembly, it is a day devoted to the rights of migrants. This year especially, with the migrant crisis so...
by Tim Hatton
Not since World War II has Europe faced a refugee crisis comparable with the situation unfolding at its borders at the moment. The European response has been, to put it mildly, ambivalent. On one hand...
by Amelie Constant
"Do migrants take the jobs of natives?" That is the perpetual question that all countries (politicians and natives) ask. Fortunately, migration economics has an answer based on research and ...
by Professor Klaus F. Zimmermann
We should all know our limitations. But what we could easily do without is the concept of national borders -- at least as far as they limit the mobility of people. This idea may seem like a naïve...
by Klaus F. Zimmermann
In this opinion series, part of our FutureWork campaign, we are asking key figures from the IZA World of Labor community to speculate on the future of the global labor economic landscape. Our Director...
by Olga Nottmeyer
In this opinion series, part of our FutureWork campaign, we are asking key figures from the IZA World of Labor community to speculate on the future of the global labor economic landscape. Fo...
by Klaus F. Zimmermann
Migration policies are facing scrutiny around the world, from Europe to the US – but we must ask whether media hype is overshadowing the facts. What do policymakers such as David Cameron, Angela...