I’ve written in the past about how there seems to be very little research on the effects of open borders beyond the labor market (though the effects of migration at the margin have been extensively studied). But even purely with respect to the economics, there’s a gap.
When it comes to what economists think about the effects of free migration, we know roughly two facts:
- There is a strong economist consensus in favor of freer migration on the margin.
- For the small subset of economists who have studied open borders, the average view seems to be that open borders would double world GDP. But there’s considerable uncertainty in the models, and the estimates range from 50-150% of current world GDP.
At least a priori, then, we could argue that the economist consensus points to open borders. But there may well be some selection bias in terms of the subset of economists who study the global effects of open borders. It would be interesting to know what economists as a whole, not pre-selected for having researched open borders, have to say about the effects of open borders. Also, given that the research tends to focus on immigration policies as they actually exist (which favor high-skilled workers to some extent) it’s somewhat less clear whether the economist consensus in favor of low-skilled migration is uniform.
The IGM Forum is one place where economists could be polled on their views. Bryan Caplan blogged about their results on high-skilled immigration. But open borders would mean open borders for people at all skill levels, and a huge part of the gain from doubling world GDP comes from the movement of people with low current skill levels.
In light of these considerations, Carl Shulman has recommended sending the following questions for inclusion in the IGM:
- effect of low-skill migrants on citizens (US-specific)
- effect of low-skill migrants on GDP, short-run (US-specific)
- effect of low-skill migrants on GDP, long-run (US-specific)
- effect of open borders on world poverty/GDP: (a) Would open borders eliminate most poverty? (b) Are the double world GDP estimates right?
- (This question was not suggested by Carl, but by John Lee): Importance of one’s country of birth in determining one’s income (this relates to the idea of the place premium).
Would these questions be good ones for the IGM? Which of the questions are more important? What variations would you recommend, and why? Suggestions for elaboration and improvement welcome.
Ideas on alternate places to post questions to ask economists, or other people with potentially relevant subject matter expertise, would also be much appreciated.
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