IGCC Working Paper: The Economic Case for Liberalized Immigration by Howard F. Chang. April 4, 1998. Page 3. 1
States has been economically beneficial to all. The 19th and 20th centuries brought mass migration of rural workers to cities as farming technology changed. Just imagine the level of rural poverty if each state had prevented the free movement of labor. It is explicitly recognized by the European Union that people must be able to move freely among the various member countries for the purpose of employment. If economic migration is so beneficial within the 50 U.S. states and within the EU, it should be no mystery that allowing people to move internationally would be just as beneficial. People move because they believe they can improve their lot. Prior to the imposition of migration restrictions around 1910, the world experienced very substantial migration. For example, at that time “the increase in the size of the labor force due to migration was 21 percent for the United States, 40 percent for Australia and Canada, and 80 percent for Argentina.”2 There were massive wage differentials during the 19th century which lead to this movement of humanity. The wage differential between the U.S. and Ireland was 2:1; between the U.S. and Italy, it was 4:1. But now that numerical immigration restrictions have been imposed in the developed countries, some of the wage differentials are much higher. Between the U.S. and Guatemala, it is 6:1. (United Kingdom/Kenya is 9:1.) Let’s be clear what this means. If someone can move from Guatemala to the United States he can increase his income six times and that is already adjusted for cost of living differences. This is why Lant Pritchett calls economic migration an “irresistible force.” Anyone who can move from a low skill location to a
Lant Pritchett, Let Their People Come, Breaking the Gridlock on Global Labor Mobility, Center for Global Development 2006 P. 23. 2
high skill location will increase their income.3 The desire to improve your life and get out of poverty has been the cause of mass migrations of people throughout history. If you care about poverty around the world, you should therefore care about the freedom to travel and seek your fortune. Although economic migration helps the migrant, the more controversial question concerns the rest of society. Is migration a win-win for everyone? If you were to ask this question of an economist, his answer would involve a discussion of the “marginal value of labor.” Since I’m...