A little over a month ago, I drove up to Washington D.C. to attend the 8th International Migration and Development Conference. I had the honor to meet some of the top researchers and rising stars in the fields of migration and development. Their ideas and methodologies pushed me to think further about what economists can contribute to policy makers in a world where migration is such an integral and necessary part of development. I hope to share my take on the conference to you.
The keynote speech delivered by Dani Rodrik was deeply intriguing. Titled “Migration and Inequality: Is the Nation State the Enemy of Global Equality?”, it explores the role of the state in a globalized world.
Rodrik first asks the question of whether we should restrict labor from flowing freely. If we think of the state as an opinion-aggregating machine where everyone is given a share of vote, rejecting mobility requires an external weight for foreign-borns to be less than 22%, lower than the 25% that rejecting foreign aid requires. Labor mobility also has an advantage over trade in that it fosters distributional justice by raising the standards of labor regulations.
A much harder question is, then, how much mobility should we allow? Open borders might undermine the efficacy of domestic institutions by creating unmanageable population flows and aggravating domestic inequality. Too much cultural diversity can also make it more difficult to establish trust and homogeneity, which are essential for the provision of public goods.
These questions do not have definitive answers. Researchers and policy makers have been and still are exploring the best mechanism to channel populations throughout the world.