Home > Events > Meetings > Migration Task Force Meeting, New York City 2008

Migration Task Force Meeting, New York City 2008

April 11, 2008

Columbia University   New York City, New York, United States

Migration is one of the most hotly debated topics in this globalized world. Whereas the movement of technology and capital has become increasingly more open, the movement of people across countries has not enjoyed such freedom. On the contrary, it is tightly controlled and often mismanaged.

Migration has benefits. As labor moves from a country where productivity and wages are low to one where they are high, output will tend to increase, resulting in an acceleration of world economic growth. Migrants may also fill niches where there is an undersupply in the labor market of the country of destination (agriculture, construction and low-skilled service activities). To that extent, they complement local labor in the host country. Furthermore, once migrants receive a higher level of income than they used to have in their home country, they may send remittances back home to help their family members that have been left behind. In many migrant countries, remittances are much higher than official development assistance or foreign direct investment, and are extremely important sources of income for those families that receive them. OECD studies have shown that if the labor markets of US, EU and Japan allowed only 4% of their labor force to come from foreign sources, the global welfare would increase by over USD 160 billion. World Bank estimates the gains are even higher.


On the other hand, there are costs in migration. As people leave their home country, families are broken and communities lose valuable human resources. The loss of human capital also implies the loss of public sector investments in training of such labor. In turn, host countries face a process of adaptation to the extent that migrants do not complement but rather compete with local workers in the job market. The increase in the supply of workers may keep wages low and the arrival of populations of different races, ethnicities or religions may result in social tension leading to discrimination as well as xenophobia and fear of foreign takeovers.

There may also be positive as well as negative effects on public sector finances in the host country. On the one hand, migrants are a source of additional tax revenues, but direct taxes will not be forthcoming in the case of some undocumented migrants. Migration may also create temporal financial strain in the public health and education systems at the state and local level, though this effect may be limited by the fact that migrants tend to come from highly productive age groups and have few dependents.

All together, the movement of people across borders creates opportunities but also poses challenges for the people and the state at both ends of the migration process: in the home country and host countries. Despite the complex effects of migration, few studies have analyzed this phenomenon comprehensively; the overlapping benefits and costs of migration remain an understudied and intensely disputed topic.

The Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD) has created a Task Force with scholars from different disciplines, research interests and nationalities, with the aim of closing this academic and public policy gap.

IPD is studying the costs and benefits of migration through three different but complementary migration flows:

  1. Documented permanent migration (particularly professionals from underdeveloped to developed nations, including US visa lotteries, Filipino nurse programs, etc.).
  2. Documented temporary migration (guest worker programs, e.g., Turkish labor to Germany, seasonal, circular, short or long-term migration, between North-South, South-South, Mode IV);
  3. Undocumented or irregular migration (temporary or permanent, i.e., Mexico-USA, or Africa-EU).

The different modalities reflect large differences in migration policies. These policies differ significantly as to the room they provide for migrants to become permanent residents and citizens in the host country, as well as to the criteria that increase the probability of being granted resident status, particularly educational and professional qualifications as well as family links with existing migrants. European Union is particularly interested in managed migration, which they call "circular migration". Canada has also adopted different types of circular migration programs. The US is still largely dependent on irregular migrants to meet the shortfall in their labor supply. But the US is also contemplating short-term or temporary foreign labor.

We attempt to study trends in these different "types" of migration (e.g., have modalities 1 and 2 been decreasing in recent years, leading to larger undocumented flows? Are policies aimed at controlling irregular flows working?), and, particularly, to analyze migration policies in order to present public policy recommendations that address the following six questions:

  1. How can migration flows be better managed better? We will analyze the demographic and economic trends in both developed and developing countries that make migration inevitable. We will look at these trends - both the push and pull factors - and the role of skills in the migration framework. We will examine whether migration opportunities for low-skilled workers and steady inflows of remittances dampen the demand for skills and education in the country of origin.
  2. What are the linkages between regular and undocumented migration? When the legal flow is overly regulated or choked, it encourages irregular migration. The challenge is to find the optimum level of regulation in migration flows.
  3. How can economic development be maximized through migration? What effect do remittances have on countries of origin? How can remittances, which are often spent on consumption, be converted into investment? The key policy challenge is to maximize the multiplier effects of remittances. It is an imperative to ensure that remittances lead to investment and job growth in the host countries.
  4. How can the economic and social costs of migration be minimized, both in the host and home countries? Many governments actively pursue migration to maximize the welfare of its citizens. Their primary effort is toward increasing remittance flows, without commensurate focus on the upfront costs of migration. How can the negative social welfare impacts that migration produces be minimized in families and communities? Cost and risk sharing should be important components in an effective migration policy.
  5. How can migrant workers be best protected? The welfare gains are not maximized if migrants do not receive competitive wages and are protected against discrimination. Minimum wage and other benefits can maximize the productivity of the migrant workers and enhance the welfare of the receiving/host countries.
  6. How can the governance of migration be improved, particularly at the national but also the regional and global levels?

In order to pursue this comprehensive agenda IPD's Migration Task Force will hold two conferences in 2008. The first conference took place in the month of April at Columbia University, New York. A second conference may take place in the fall at the Universidad de Guadalajara (UDG) in Guadalajara, Mexico. Our goal for each conference will be to gather over 20 academics, whose areas of expertise will be enlarged by the multinational and multidisciplinary group. Each attendee will present or comment on a research paper, according to the topics mentioned above. The process will eventually result in a book, an edited volume that will present our analysis of the topics in a way that will be accessible to policymakers, students and civil society concerned with migration and its effect on development. The volume will take its place among the IPD book series'Challenges in Development and Globalization'.

  • Dante Ang
    Task Force Member
    Honorable Chairman
    Commission on Filipinos Overseas
  • Jeronimo Cortina
    Task Force Chair
    University of Houston
  • Hein de Haas
    Task Force Member
    Research Officer
    International Migration Institute Oxford
  • Rodolfo de la Garza
    Task Force Member
    Professor of Political Science
    Columbia University
  • Josh DeWind
    Task Force Member
    Program Director
    Social Science Research Council
  • Christian Dustmann
    Task Force Member
    Economics Professor
    University College London
  • Stephany Griffith-Jones
    Task Force Member
    Financial Markets Program Director
    Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD)
  • Graeme Hugo
    Task Force Member
    University of Adelaide
  • Khalid Koser
    Task Force Member
    Course Director
    Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  • Hyejin Ku
    Task Force Member
    Florida State University
  • Peggy Levitt
    Task Force Member
    Wellesley College
  • Marcelino Chicano Libanan
    Task Force Member
    Bureau of Immigration, Philippines
  • Philip Martin
    Task Force Member
    University of California Davis
  • José Antonio Ocampo
    Task Force Member
    Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD)
  • Enrique Ochoa Reza
    Task Force Chair
    Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
  • Hamid Rashid
    Task Force Member
    Senior Advisor on Legal Empowerment
    United Nations Development Programme
  • John Slocum
    Task Force Member
    Director, Migration and Human Mobility
    MacArthur Foundation
  • Joseph Stiglitz
    Task Force Member
    Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD)
  • Michael Teitelbaum
    Task Force Member
    Vice President
    Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
  • Hania Zlotnik
    Task Force Member
    Director, Population Division
    United Nations
  • Ayman Zohry
    Task Force Member
    Egyptian Society for Migration Studies
Improving Governance in Migration: Lessons from the Philippine Experience

80kb pdf
Dante Ang

More Migration and Less Remittances? An Analysis of Turkish, Polish and Mexican Migration as They Evolve

167kb pdf
Jeronimo Cortina,
Enrique Ochoa Reza

Conventional wisdom argues that the relationship between migration and remittances is positive and reinforcing. The basic idea is that as the number of migrants in a host country in period one grows, the level of remittances sent to the home country will increase in period two, ceteris paribus. Likewise, as the level of remittances received in the home country increases in period two, the level of migration to the host country will increase in period three. These phenomena could be summarized in a nutshell as "more migration, more remittances". Although there is substantial evidence to prove that this dynamic is true, we will argue in this paper that the relationship between migration and remittances is not always positive and could be negative depending on demographic, banking and immigration policies that are seldom analyzed comprehensively by scholars or policy makers. In this paper we will present evidence to show that an obvious factor molding the relationship between migration and remittances is the demographic composition of the migratory flow, which could be an unintended byproduct of immigration policies in host countries. A migration flow of children and women, following family reunification policies, will potentially lead to a significant reduction of both the supply and demand of remittances. As the money will now stay in the host country, this will result in a counterintuitive dynamic: more migration, but fewer remittances. In short, remitters will become savers. In order to show how this dynamic operates we will analyze the case of Turkish and Polish migration to Germany and of Mexican migration to the United States.

The Costs and Benefits of Migration: Some Preliminary Notes on The Importance of Asking the Right Questions

22kb pdf
Hein de Haas

Enhancing the Potential Benefits of International Migration in Sending and Receiving Countries

2.12mb pdf
Hein de Haas

International Migration, Remittances, and Development: Myths and Facts

131kb pdf
Hein de Haas

The debate on international South – North labour migration tends to focus on the receiving end of migration. This bias obscures a proper understanding of the developmental causes and consequences of migration at the sending end. The reciprocal migration – development relationship is examined through the discussion of seven migration ‘myths’. Because of its profound developmental roots, it is useless to think that migration can be halted or that aid and trade are short-cut ‘solutions’ to immigration. Migrant remittances contribute significantly to development and living conditions in sending countries. Nevertheless, the recent ‘remittance euphoria’ is not justified, because unattractive investment environments and restrictive immigration policies which interrupt circular migration patterns prevent the high development potential of migration from being fully realised. Although specific policies can enhance this potential through facilitating remittance transfers and investments, the key lies in encouraging circular migration. Instead of uselessly and harmfully trying to stop inevitable migration, immigration policies allowing for freer circulation can, besides increasing migration control, enhance the vital contribution of migrants to the development of their home countries.

Remittances, Migration, and Social Development: A Conceptual Review of the Literature

745kb pdf
Hein de Haas

This paper reviews the empirical literature on the relationship between remittances and various dimensions of social development in the developing world within a broader conceptual framework of migration and development theory. Migration and remittances are generally part of risk-spreading and co-insurance livelihood strategies pursued by households and families. Migration and remittances also have the potential to improve well-being, stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty directly and indirectly, while their effects on inequality are much more ambiguous.The significant empirical and theoretical advances that have been made over the past several decades highlight the fundamentally heterogeneous nature of migration remittance-development interactions, as well as their contingency on spatial and temporal scales of analysis, which should forestall any blanket assertions on this issue. Notwithstanding their often considerable blessings for individuals, households and communities, migration and remittances are no panacea for solving more structural development problems. If states fail to implement general social and economic reform, migration and remittances are unlikely to contribute to nationwide sustainable development. Migrants and remittances can neither be blamed for a lack of development nor be expected to trigger takeoff development in generally unattractive investment environments. Therefore, policies aimed at increasing people’s welfare, creating functioning markets, improving social security and public services such as health and education are also likely to enhance the contribution that migration and remittances can make to social development.

A Model of International Migration, Remittances, and Real Exchange Rates

171kb pdf
Hyejin Ku

This paper investigates the linkage between international migration and real exchange rates using remittances as a medium. It demonstrates that due to cost of living differences between countries, if remittances sent back home for the family translate into a favorable enough amount of consumption, a migrant may voluntarily accept real wages or standards of living in the host country that are lower than those in one’s own country. This paper contributes to an understanding of international migration in relation with important macroeconomic variables. Moreover, the possibility of multiple equilibria arising in the model suggests an unusual route through which migration can be regulated.

Labor Migration as Price Arbitrage: Theory and Evidence from Mexican Workers in the US

344kb pdf
Hyejin Ku

This paper analyzes the labor migration that arises due to geographic real price differences. A migrant’s consumption mix is optimized across borders via remittances. To the extent that the real price level is lower in the source country, migration is triggered by a lower cut-off wage in the host country. Empirical results show that as the purchasing power of the US dollar in Mexico goes up, a skilled Mexican worker is more likely to migrate to the US and a Mexican migrant in the US is more likely to be working in a low-paying job.

Conceptualizing Simultaneity: A Transnational Social Field Perspective on Society

257kb pdf
Peggy Levitt,
Nina Glick Schiller

In this paper, we explore the social theory and consequent methodology that underpins studies of transnational migration. First, we propose a social field approach to the study of migration, and distinguish between ways of being and ways of belonging in that field. Second, we argue that assimilation and enduring transnational ties are neither incompatible nor binary opposites. Third, we highlight social processes and institutions that are routinely obscured by traditional migration scholarship but that become clear when we use a transnational lens. Finally, we locate our approach to migration research within a larger intellectual project, that has been take up by scholars of transnational processes in many fields, to rethink and reformulate the concept of society such that it is no longer automatically equated with the boundaries of a single nation-state.

Transnational Migration Studies: Past Developments and Future Trends

258kb pdf
Peggy Levitt,
Bernadette Nadya Jaworsky

The last two decades have witnessed a sea change in migration scholarship. Most scholars now recognize that many contemporary migrants and their predecessors maintain various kinds of ties to their homelands at the same time that they are incorporated into the countries that receive them. Increasingly, social life takes place across borders, even as the political and cultural salience of nation-state boundaries remains strong. Transnational Migration Studies has emerged as an inherently interdisciplinary field, made up of scholars around the world, seeking to describe and analyze these dynamics and invent new methodological tools with which to do so. In this article, we offer a short history of theoretical developments, outlining the different ways in which scholars have defined and approached transnational migration. We then summarize what is known about migrant transnationalism in different arenas – economics, politics, the social, the cultural and the religious. Finally, we discuss methodological implications for the study of international migration, present promising new scholarship, and highlight future research directions.

Migrations and the Challenge of Demographic and Economic Transitions In The New Globalization Era

83kb pdf
Bruno Losch

The Trade, Migration, and Development Nexus

200kb pdf
Philip Martin

Managing Migration: The Global Challenge

875kb pdf
Philip Martin,
Gottfried Zürcher

Migration and Development in Egypt

530kb pdf
Ayman Zohry

Migration Without Borders: North Africa as a Reserve of Cheap Labour for Europe

86kb pdf
Ayman Zohry

Event Information

Type Meeting
Program Migration