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Thursday, November 13, 2003

The Future of Migration

Harvard lecturer in Public Policy Lant Pritchett argues in the first of a two-part series for YaleGlobal that

Standing on the cusp of the 21st century, it is clear that another wave of mass migration is poised to break down the barricades protecting the world's rich and developed countries.

He goes on to analyze five major forces behind this phenomenon: cross-border wage inequality, differences in job markets, demographic pressures, a more connected world and the rising importance of jobs tied to specific locations, like health care and education.

In the last part of the series, Pritchett argues that the main barrier to this new wave of mass migrations is ideological resistance from the population in developed countries. In a most telling statistic, he notes that as early as 1995, "in no place in Europe was support for any additional migration higher than 10 percent".

This is a theme that Edward has covered for a long while here at Bonobo, and a classic tale of an irresistible force (mass migrations and the socioeconomic gradients driving them) meeting an immovable object (as Pritchett memorably puts it, "technically, migration is prevented by people with guns"). I always bet for socioeconomic gradients against people with guns in the long term, but in the meantime we might see an ugly return to even stronger isolationist forms of nationalism in the developed world.

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