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Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?

May 1, 2012

A new paper by Michael Clemens for the Center for Global Development:

Large numbers of people born in poor countries would like to leave those countries, but barriers prevent their emigration. Those barriers, according to economists’ best estimates to date, cost the world economy much more than all remaining barriers to the international movement of goods and capital combined. Yet economists spend much more time studying the movement of goods and capital, and when they study migration at all, they focus on the effects of immigration on nonmigrants in destination countries. I ask why this is the case and sketch a four-point research agenda on the effects of emigration. Barriers to emigration deserve a research priority that is commensurate with their likely colossal economic effects.

Clemens estimates that if people move to places with good rules, worldwide income could increase by 50 to 150 percent.

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One Comment
  1. mike7592875 permalink
    May 2, 2012 10:32 pm

    I saw this “good rules” effect in motion today, arriving in Warsaw, Poland, which looked like (for the city center at least) Hong Kong in its early days, with skyscrapers under construction (cranes in every direction I looked) and business humming along nicely (unlike in any of the other places I’ve traveled through in Europe).

    My guess was that all the business activity was due to Poland having low taxes, and I was right, they are among the lowest in Europe, and I found myself immediately planning establishing something here, unlike any other place so far on an European tour.

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