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Allowing Greater International Migration Could Provide Economic Benefits Worldwide, Says Economic Letter

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For immediate release: March 26, 2015

DALLAS—Allowing greater international migration offers the potential of outsized economic output gains compared with what is possible with further liberalization of trade or capital flows, according to the latest issue of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ Economic Letter.

In “International Migration Remains the Last Frontier of Globalization,” Mark A. Wynne compares the importance of international migration today to the great migrations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He writes that there are many more formal barriers to international migration today than a century ago.

Barriers include the need to obtain a work permit or other authorization before working in a country not of one’s birth, as well as migration costs, Wynne says, noting host countries gain through larger markets and home countries benefit from migrant remittances.

“Migration is a truly global phenomenon, and the cross-border movement of people today is arguably on the same scale as during the great migrations at the turn of the 20th century,” Wynne says. “By most estimates, the average citizen of the world would be better off with more open borders.”

The U.S. remains the most popular destination for international migrants, with more than 40 million foreign-born individuals living in the U.S. as of 2012, Wynne notes. The Mexico–U.S. corridor remains the most important passage worldwide, in terms of numbers.

“While the cross-border flow of workers may never be as free as the cross-border flow of goods and capital or ideas, even the levels of migration that prevail today may generate significant welfare gains to host and home countries,” Wynne writes.

Wynne is a vice president and associate director of research for international economics in the Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

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Media contact:
Justin Jones
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Phone: 214-922-5449
Email: Justin.Jones@dal.frb.org