If I Had a Million Dollars…

… here’s what I would do with it. I would start a foundation in DC dedicated to measuring and comparing the policy openness to migration of all the world’s countries. The measures would include:

Right to invite. This would measure the ease with which residents of the country who want foreigners to visit or move to the country could get visas for them. Can firms and individuals who want to hire foreigners, or invite them as conference guests, procure visas for them? How fast? How easily? How transparent is the process?

Welcoming to sojourners. This would measure the ease of getting a visa for someone who wants to come to the country on their own initiative, without having received any particular invitation from anyone. Is it easy to get tourist or student visas? Once sojourners arrive, can they work? Are they quite free to move about the country and interact with whom they will, or are they restricted somehow?

Family values. This measure would focus on whether migration restrictions separated families, or allowed them to reunite. If a country frequently separated families, that’s a minus. If it allows families to reunite whom other countries’ immigration laws separated, that’s a plus.

Social integration. This would measure how easily immigrants who want to stay– sojourners or temporary migrants are less important here– can integrate into society, making friends, being accepted, attaining citizenship. It’s not entirely a policy measure but might look at the nature of the society as well. Intermarriage might be a plus here. Xenophobic political parties and hate crimes would be a minus.

Refuge. This measure would focus on political and religious refugees, and a country’s willingness to admit them.

Opportunity. How well do immigrants and sojourners do once they arrive– economically? Do they flourish, or get stuck in low-end jobs or demoralizing welfare-dependency?

Civil rights. Are immigrants’ civil rights respected? Are they subject to police harassment or intimidation? Do they feel safe?

You’d probably start the process by contacting immigration lawyers in many different countries and commissioning them to write reports. From the reports, you could get a clearer idea what to look for and refine your measures. They might also point you to data sources. Some of the work would involve analyzing laws and bureaucratic procedures.

One prediction I’d make is that the United States would score much worse on these measures than Americans think. I have often been half-horrified and half-touched by the belief of Americans that we’re uncommonly open and generous to immigrants, when really, we’re one of the harder countries to get into. America would surely score well on “opportunity” and moderately well on “social integration” but very poorly on “welcoming to sojourners.”

Once constructed, these indices could serve several purposes. First, they could have a “naming and shaming” role, identifying the world’s most closed countries, while issuing surprising congratulations to countries that have probably been more permissive all along. I suspect people in the West would be surprised to see how well Russia would score. Second, they could be an input to research, e.g., establishing with statistical significance the link between policy openness and entrepreneurial vitality. Third, they could be a guide to business decisions, e.g., “Let’s establish the new plant in Georgia… Yeah, I know they don’t have all the specialists we need, but the Open Borders Index says that Georgia is the #1 right-to-invite country in the world.” Fourth, they could inform the decisions of prospective immigrants, e.g., “I really want to get an education and then move out of Sudan, but where could I go? Hmm, the Philippines is welcoming to sojourners…” Fifth, they could become an input to development-aid decisions, e.g., “Namibia deserves a lot of aid, they’re very open to migration.” Sixth, they could suggest the outlines of deals between governments, e.g., “Why are you so unwelcoming to our citizens?” “Well, why are you so unwelcoming to our citizens?” “Let’s make a deal…” Seventh, the periodic issuing of reports would give the media and bloggers something to write about, raising the profile of the immigration issue.

So, question: is anyone already doing something along these lines? Vipul pointed me towards the Center for Global Development’s “Migrants Count” project. And here’s an interesting initiative by IMPALA, the International Migration Policy and Law Analysis:

Measuring and comparing migration, asylum, and naturalisation policies

Academics and policy-makers require a better understanding of the variation, determinants and effects of policies that regulate international migration and asylum. Yet, at present, there is no comprehensive cross-national, time-series database of immigration, asylum and citizenship policies — rendering the analysis of policy trends across and within these areas difficult at best. Several new immigration databases and indices have been developed in recent years, but there is no consensus on how best to conceptualise, measure and aggregate migration policy indicators to allow for meaningful comparisons through time and across space.

The International Migration Policy and Law Analysis (IMPALA) consortium advocates a historical, multi-dimensional, disaggregated and transparent approach to conceptualising, measuring and compiling immigration policies. The IMPALA consortium seeks to develop the world’s first comprehensive large-n database of migration law and policy, and new indices of national migration regimes’ openness and restrictiveness. In this paper, we first discuss some methodological challenges and how they have been dealt with by existing approaches. We then set out the IMPALA approach and its methodological innovations. We end by discussing some of the envisaged payoffs that the new approach will bring to the study of immigration.

Nathan Smith is an assistant professor of economics at Fresno Pacific University. He did his Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University and has also worked for the World Bank. Smith proposed Don’t Restrict Immigration, Tax It, one of the more comprehensive keyhole solution proposals to address concerns surrounding open borders.

See also:

Page about Nathan Smith on Open Borders
All blog posts by Nathan Smith

3 thoughts on “If I Had a Million Dollars…”

  1. Perhaps you could follow up in a future blog post on how these existing projects fall short of what you would hope to achieve with the million dollars.

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