Tag Archives: Brazil

Poverty, International Aid and Immigration

One of the main justifications for supporting open borders is that it has the potential to alleviate poverty.  But opening borders is not the first thing that comes to mind when people think of poverty reduction measures.  Most people tend to think of international aid programs. Trouble is, international aid isn’t that effective.

For a quick primer, see this report published by the Center for Global Development. The main points include the following:

  • International aid has four main objectives: stimulation of economic growth, strengthening local institutions, immediate humanitarian relief, and economic stabilization after a shock.
  • The evidence accumulated from numerous studies is that there is basically no correlation between international aid and economic growth even though many countries receive over 10% of their gross national income in aid annually.
  • Donors are faced with a significant Principal-Agent problem, which results in a lot of aid ending up in the hands of corrupt officials and useless bureaucrats, or being wasted in some other way.
  • There is some evidence that aid is (slightly) more effective when given to countries with better governance and policies in place, but this does not always correlate with who needs aid the most.

Basically, international aid doesn’t work that well in the long run. Interestingly, this does not mean that we are losing the war on poverty. In fact, according to this article in the economist, the world met the millennium challenge goal of cutting poverty in half between 1990 and 2015 five years early.  So how did it happen?

In a word, China. We are all familiar with the story of China by now. After China adopted meaningful economic reforms in the 1970’s, their economy exploded and millions of people got jobs in new industries making goods that are exported across the world.  What we don’t always take into account is that this massive economic growth depends on a massive level of economic migration.  Chinese cities have over 250 million migrant workers.  Some estimates claim that another 250 million will move to the city by 2025.  China’s migrant population will soon be greater than the entire population of the US.

China has hundreds of millions of internal migrants despite the fact that the government does not allow its citizens to freely move around the country.  Chinese migrant workers live under conditions similar to illegal immigrants in this country.  Millions of migrant worker children are not even allowed to attend school even though China’s leaders know that their urban industries depend on migrant labor.  Migration has been vital to China’s economic growth, but there is massive bureaucratic resistance to granting these migrants basic rights because of the strain it would put on local welfare and education systems.  Sound familiar?  Still, hundreds of millions of rural Chinese have decided it is better for them to live on the margins of an industrialized economy than to risk starvation in a backward agricultural area.

Despite government attempts to prevent it, migration has been a fundamental part of how the world has cut poverty in half.  The explanation is pretty simple. Prior to industrialization, pretty much everyone lives in poverty.  Individuals in agricultural societies don’t produce very much, and they are fairly evenly distributed across the land. Individuals who specialize in a modern economy are very productive but they need to live in close proximity to other people. Thus industrialization goes hand in hand with massive rural-urban migration.

China isn’t the only country that has been transformed by internal migration. 30 percent of India’s population are migrants, as that countries citizens search for better conditions. In Brazil, the urban population went from 36% to 81% of the total in the second half on the 20th century.  And of course, the United States has experienced several periods of migration that shaped our nation’s history.

When we talk about poverty reduction, migration should be the first word that comes to mind.  Of course, the movements discussed here have been internal.  Internal migration is a bigger factor than international immigration in global poverty reduction because it is easier for people to move around within their own countries (despite restrictions, as in China).  A few countries have both the massive rural populations and dynamic urban production centers that make economy changing rural-urban migration possible.  But many areas of the world are being choked off either because their rural population has nowhere to go or their aging economy lacks an influx of new workers.

The benefit of open borders is that it allows the process of industrialization and poverty reduction to proceed without artificial barriers.  The China miracle could become a comprehensive global solution to poverty.

 

Paul Kersey on immigration and multiethnic societies

Paul Kersey has a thought-provoking piece up at VDARE with some speculation about the potential consequences of expanded migration and/or legalization initiatives currently being mooted by US legislators and policy wonks. Kersey uses an interesting technique similar to something that has often cropped up in the posts and comments at this site (including, specifically, comments by BK): an analysis of the performance of multiethnic societies to inform the debate about the short-run and long-run consequences of open borders. While Kersey’s rhetorical style is perhaps more upfront and forthright than that employed by the typical sophisticated restrictionist, the style of argument he makes does appeal to a wide range of people.

Let me begin by noting what I like about Kersey’s approach. It seems to me that too often, discussions about the effects of policies are built on exceptionalist rhetoric that fails to learn from the experiences of other countries. For instance, discussions of affirmative action in one country often fail to consider evidence about affirmative action and similar policies employed in other countries. The same applies to discussions of the effects of the minimum wage, or of tax increases, or of conscription. The problem with ignoring other countries is that a single country usually doesn’t offer enough variation in its history to provide a lot of insight. Comparing across countries can help overcome this problem. There are a lot of caveats to be considered when doing inter-country comparisons, but it’s a tool that should be given a shot. This kind of analysis, incidentally, is one of the things that I admire Thomas Sowell for, even though I don’t often see eye to eye with Sowell’s moral outlook, empirical assertions, and rhetorical style (see here for my discussion of Sowell on migration and here for my personal views on Sowell’s output as a whole).

In addition to using an international perspective, it may also be important to extend the analysis beyond migration to other situations that might mimic the effects of migration. A common and plausible strand of thinking is that the performance of multiethnic societies compared to more homogeneous societies provides some insight into the effects open borders might have, in so far as open borders would make certain societies (the target countries of migration) more multiethnic. The use of these indirect proxies, weak and questionable though they may be from some perspectives, is better than just throwing up one’s hands or refusing to consider the question. Open borders is a radical proposal, and it behooves those discussing it to try their hardest to look at all the various things that could go right and wrong with open borders.

Based on the above, I was initially quite sympathetic to Paul Kersey’s attempt to figure out the impact of open borders by looking at two examples of racially and ethnically diverse societies that have been known to be ridden with conflict and problems — South Africa and Brazil. Clearly, my bottom line differs from Kersey’s, but I was hoping to gain some insight from Kersey’s piece on the matter. I was somewhat disappointed in this respect.

Kersey’s analysis of South Africa is similar to many other restrictionist analyses — South Africa ended apartheid, and look how bad things are in South Africa today. What does the evidence actually suggest? Grieve Chelwa did an excellent post on South Africa in the open borders debate. A very brief summary of his post: things were pretty bad and in many ways getting worse in the period 1980-1994 (prior to the end of apartheid), and things have generally been improving 1994-2008, though not very fast. But the improvement post-1994 is certainly quite impressive compared to the 1980-1994 performance. Within the 1994-2008 period, things have generally been better in the latter half of the period, and the poor performance in the beginning can be attributed to some bad leadership and statist economic policy. Grieve looks at poverty, inequality, unemployment, and crime. In the comments, BK brought up the decline in life expectancy, which is certainly one worrisome negative trend, and is mostly attributed to the HIV denialism of Thabo Mbeki. Clearly, there are no easy answers here, and South Africa is at best modestly encouraging and at worst modestly discouraging in terms of the case for open borders. With this background in mind, I thought Kersey might have some interesting insights to offer on the negative side of the ledger.

Kersey’s analysis of South Africa, however, involves block quoting the entirety of a sidebar (!) from a Daily Mail article about a rich guy shooting his girlfriend (it’s unclear whether the shooting was intentional or accidental). The sidebar laments South Africa’s high crime rate, and this is the main piece of evidence used by Kersey to conclude that apartheid was a failure. But as Grieve’s analysis showed, the rates for most violent crimes (including homicides, which have the most reliable data in general) has declined considerably since the end of apartheid, with the main exception to the trend being armed robberies (a quick-and-dirty version of the homicide data can be viewed here, but see the links in Grieve’s post for more). Probably, there are many interpretations of the statistics, but I’d have hoped that Kersey would not use a single-point-in-time number to draw conclusions about trends in post-apartheid South Africa.

I don’t really know enough (or in fact anything) about Brazil. Kersey’s analysis of Brazil looks potentially interesting, but I’d be loath to use it as an information source for reasons very similar to those that I elucidated for South Africa. I would strongly urge restrictionists like Kersey to perform deeper analyses of trends so that people on all sides of the debate have a better idea of the restrictionist end in the range of plausible conclusions one can draw from the data. By taking shortcuts and preferring sensation over substance, Kersey does both his own cause and the cause of truth a disservice.

Who favors open borders?

The World Values Survey records quite a bit of information about public opinion related to immigration. I’d like to do in-depth analysis of it at some point. Here are a few things I’ve noted so far (no rich statistical analysis yet though):

  • Young people worldwide are more favorable to open borders, but the effect is very slight. There is no sign– yet– that generational change will tilt the world towards open borders.
  • Children of immigrants are somewhat more favorable to immigration.
  • There seems to be NO correlation worldwide between attitudes towards immigration policy and self-positioning on the left-right spectrum. (This surprised me.)
  • There seems to be no correlation between social class and attitudes towards immigration policy, unless it’s that the middle classes are a bit more favorable.
  • Correlations with life satisfaction are weak; however, the most strongly restrictionist attitudes seem to be more common among people leaning towards dissatisfaction with their lives.
  • People who trust foreigners “completely” are more favorable to a welcoming immigration policy (well, duh), yet 13% of those who don’t trust foreigners at all still say “let anyone come.”
  • People who don’t want immigrants as neighbors are more likely to favor strict limits on or prohibition of immigration (58%, to 42% of those who don’t mind immigrant neighbors) but some of these, too, favor “letting anyone come.”
  • No difference between men and women.

There are large differences across countries in attitudes towards immigration policy. Only 48 countries seem to be covered by the survey, but among those, two-thirds have public opinion more favorable to immigration than the United States, as measured by the share saying “let anyone come.” In particular, Mexican attitudes towards immigration policy are more liberal than Americans’. Some commenters at this site have suggested Asia as an example of a more restrictionist society that nativist Americans might desire to emulate. The WVS data suggest that this is true at the level of public opinion: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia have some of the lowest shares of open borders supporters in the world, though in the terms of the number favoring “strict limits” or more, South Koreans are more liberal on immigration than Americans are.

What I find most interesting in the international data is that some developing countries have far more favorable attitudes towards immigration than any rich country. In Vietnam, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, nearly half the population favors letting anyone come. India has an unusually large number of open borders supporters as well, though it is also tied for highest in terms of the number of people supporting complete prohibition of immigration. Several countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America also seem to have more open borders supporters than any of the rich countries, except Sweden, which appears to be an outlier, with a far more pro-open borders populace of any rich country included in the survey.

Country Let anyone come As long as jobs available Strict limits Prohibit

1

Vietnam

49%

27%

22%

1%

2

Burkina Faso

43%

45%

10%

1%

3

Rwanda

41%

48%

8%

2%

4

Ethiopia

40%

28%

27%

5%

5

Mali

34%

46%

16%

4%

6

Morocco

28%

41%

20%

11%

7

Romania

23%

42%

23%

11%

8

Uruguay

23%

56%

17%

3%

9

Peru

23%

50%

21%

6%

10

India

23%

22%

25%

30%

11

Ukraine

21%

53%

19%

7%

12

China

20%

51%

21%

8%

13

Ghana

18%

39%

36%

6%

14

Sweden

18%

54%

27%

1%

15

Guatemala

17%

55%

21%

7%

16

Argentina

15%

45%

34%

6%

17

Serbia

14%

26%

46%

14%

18

Bulgaria

13%

55%

24%

8%

19

Moldova

13%

50%

26%

11%

20

Poland

12%

35%

46%

6%

21

Mexico

12%

45%

25%

17%

22

Zambia

11%

30%

44%

15%

23

Brazil

9%

47%

33%

11%

24

Georgia

9%

19%

56%

16%

25

Finland

9%

40%

48%

3%

26

Turkey

9%

43%

27%

21%

27

Italy

8%

49%

37%

6%

28

Canada

8%

51%

39%

2%

29

Spain

8%

48%

42%

3%

30

Slovenia

7%

56%

29%

8%

31

Germany

7%

43%

45%

5%

32

USA

7%

37%

49%

8%

33

Chile

6%

50%

35%

9%

34

Cyprus

6%

36%

51%

7%

35

S Africa

6%

16%

48%

30%

36

Switzerland

6%

67%

26%

1%

37

Indonesia

6%

15%

72%

8%

38

Andorra

5%

72%

22%

1%

39

Egypt

5%

25%

43%

26%

40

Thailand

5%

16%

65%

14%

41

Norway

4%

53%

42%

1%

42

Trinidad And Tobago

4%

32%

55%

10%

43

Australia

3%

54%

41%

2%

44

S Korea

3%

56%

36%

5%

45

Japan

3%

42%

50%

5%

46

Taiwan

3%

30%

58%

9%

47

Jordan

2%

28%

46%

25%

48

Malaysia

2%

8%

72%

18%

 

Another very interesting pattern emerged when I dug down into the data involving religion. When asked “How important is God in your life?” on a scale of 1 to 10, about half the respondents answered “10” and half answered something less.  I was distressed to discover that those for whom God was very important in their lives seemed to have less favorable attitudes towards immigration. But when I broke it down by religious demonination, I found something different. While Muslims who regard God as very important in their lives tend to be more restrictionist, Christians of each denomination are more likely to support open borders if they are strongly in touch with God, as shown in the table below (which includes all denominations for which there were over 500 observations in the WVS dataset):

 

How important is God in your life? (scale: 1-10)
Religious Denomination <10 10
Roman Catholic 9% 15%
Protestant 7% 15%
Evangelical 7% 11%
Orthodox 13% 19%
Church of Sweden 16% 19%
Muslim 19% 13%
Buddhist 7% 9%
Ancestor worship 44% 57%
Hindu 12% 15%

 

The percentage in each cell represents the share of respondents saying “Let anyone come.” Note that it is not the case that Christians are more supportive of open borders in general. Many factors affect support for open borders, and it seems that public opinion in rich countries is often less favorable to open borders. And of course most rich countries are nominally/historically Christian. So Muslims are actually more likely than most Christian denominations to favor open borders. But within each Christians denomination, there is a statistically significant (though fairly small) positive correlation between rating God’s importance in one’s life “10” and advocating “let anyone come.”

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