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December 8, 2010
Questions (and some potential answers) on immigration and remittances
Immigration is a topic that raises many questions from both policymakers and the public, and researchers work to offer perspective. Some questions currently being posed are
- Does immigration into the United States have a positive impact on native-born employment opportunities?
- If remittance fees (that is, fees immigrants pay to send money home) are reduced, how much more money do migrants send home?
- How does sponsorship of family members' immigration into the United States change immigration patterns?
Unskilled immigrant labor and offshoring
Some highlights from the research presented at the conference include a paper by University of California, Davis professor Giovanni Peri that was recently profiled in the New York Times. Peri argues that unskilled immigrant labor helps prevent U.S. firms from relocating offshore.
The paper cites evidence indicating that less-educated immigrants are employed in jobs that require more manual and routine-intensive tasks and on average do not compete for jobs in which the bulk of native workers are employed. Those jobs tend to be more cognitive and nonroutine-intensive type of work. In other words, immigrants and low-skilled native workers are not substitutes but complements. In fact, unskilled immigrants compete more with offshore workers. The paper concludes that immigration generates cost-savings for U.S. firms and thus a corresponding increase in productivity, so immigration's aggregate effect on the level of low-skilled native employment in the United States is positive.
This finding is in contrast to research conducted by George Borjas of Harvard University, who also participated in the conference. His work suggests that rather than being complements, immigrants with similar skill levels tend to be substitutes for native workers.
In 2008, immigrants sent $336 billion to their relatives in developing countries, and in many countries remittances are often greater than private capital flows and official development aid combined. Remittance flows also generate billions of dollars in fees.
Dean Yang, from the University of Michigan, quantifies the impact of money transfer fees on remittances flows. Using a unique field experiment among Salvadoran migrants in the Washington, D.C., area, migrants were randomly assigned discounts on remittance transactions fees. Surprisingly, minor reductions in remittance fees led to large increases in total transfers. For instance, a $1 reduction in transaction costs generated $25 more remitted dollars per person per month. This finding suggests that a reduction in transaction costs can lead to very sizable gains in recipient countries.
Sponsorship of family members
Although countries such as Canada and Australia prioritize the entry of young, skilled foreign workers, the U.S. immigration system strongly emphasizes family reunification, which is a method where naturalized immigrants can sponsor relatives (spouse, children, parents, and siblings) in their immigration to the United States. Sponsoring new immigrants means that migrants not only are a major source of remittances, but they can fundamentally shape the flow of immigration by assisting migration of their relatives.
Until now, researchers had limited data on sponsors' behavior. Using a new immigration survey, Yale University professor Mark Rosenzweig presented research that for the first time explores the role of sponsorship. He shared preliminary results showing that while immigrant children who are less educated tend to receive remittances from their relatives who have immigrated to the United States, children with more schooling are able to take better advantage of the U.S. job market and are the first ones to be sponsored.
Other papers included research aimed at quantifying the effect of female migration on children left behind, the impact of immigrants on the educational attainment on natives, the productivity gains from skilled migration into the United States, and the role of seasonal migration in mitigating famine in Bangladesh. All of the conference papers are available.
By Stephen Kay, senior economist and coordinator of the Atlanta Fed's Americas Center, and Federico Mandelman, research economist and assistant policy adviser, both of the Atlanta Fed's research department
January 10, 2007
Sometimes it's nice to hear a little good news. From the Financial Times:
The transatlantic push to conclude the troubled Doha round of global trade talks got a wary welcome from the head and some members of the World Trade Organisation on Tuesday.
Details of any deal to reconcile the US and European Union positions remain elusive, but Pascal Lamy, director-general of the WTO, said the determination expressed this week by US president George W. Bush and José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, was a marked advance.
Similar expressions of enthusiasm from Mr Bush and other heads of government during the Group of Eight summit in St Petersburg last summer were not followed by concessions at the negotiating table, and the Doha talks were suspended in July amid bitter transatlantic recriminations.
But Mr Lamy said prospects were better. “The signs we are seeing now are qualitatively different from what we heard last year,” he told the Financial Times. “The political chemistry is beginning to work.”
And from The Wall Street Journal (page A1 of the print edition):
With Fidel Castro ailing and absent from the public stage, some influential Cuban intellectuals are laying plans for a more market-oriented approach to fortify the island's ailing communist economy...
Together, the Cuban economists' proposals would cut down on state interference in businesses and aim to wring more productivity out of the island nation's economy. Among the steps under discussion: decentralizing control, expanding the power of managers at privately owned agricultural cooperatives, extending private ownership to other sectors, boosting investment in infrastructure and increasing incentives to workers.
None of the plans would shuck communism for capitalism or open the island further to foreign investment -- which economists outside Cuba say are critical for the island to prosper. But the fact that the government is permitting -- and perhaps even encouraging -- the debate suggests regime officials might find these kinds of changes acceptable, though it may take Mr. Castro's death to put them into action.
There are lots of devils in all the details of both stories, but hey, it's a new year. Why not start it with a little hope?
December 7, 2005
Doves Land At The Bank Of Canada?
Canada's government bonds rose and the Canadian dollar fell from a 13-year high after the Bank of Canada lifted the overnight rate by a quarter-percentage point to 3.25 percent and said inflation is slowing.
Yields on Canada's benchmark two-year government bond dropped from the two and a half-year high reached yesterday as traders trimmed bets on rate increases.
That, I think, makes them the first major central bank to officially un-sound the inflation alarm. From the Bank's official statement, via Reuters:
Total CPI inflation, at 2.6 per cent in October, has come down more quickly than expected, primarily reflecting a rapid decline in gasoline prices. Core inflation, at 1.7 per cent in October, is in line with the Bank's projection.
Not everyone, however, is convinced that this means a reversal of the basic program. From the National Post:
While all thoughts of a possible 50-basis-point hike from the Bank of Canada may have been banished, [Craig Wright, chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada] does think the bank may have to raise rates over a longer time period than expected. "When the Fed started their tightening cycle, people were looking at 4.0% or 4.25%; now that we're there, people say there is more to come," Mr. Wright said.
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