Michael Clemens sets the record straight on (the benefits of) migration

A Budapest railway station in early September 2015 held about 10,000 refugees who had been declined further passage. Credit: Wassilios Aswestopoulos/NurPhto

For the Humanosphere podcast, we speak with Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development who has a special interest in trying to bring a more evidence-based – less hysterical or fear-based – perspective to the current global multiple refugee and migrant crises. Clemens, a Harvard-trained economist, has conducted extensive research into the economic impacts of migration. He believes the politicians and the public dialogue on migration is often way off target, not just missing the forest for the trees but seeing economic devastation when the evidence suggests open doors actually make us all healthier and wealthier.

The world today is grappling with a surge of refugees at a scale not seen since World War II, largely caused by the civil war in Syria and the rise of the brutal Islamic State militia. European and American countries are taking various steps to deal with the people seeking refuge. Reactions to the decisions by leaders have been strong, both in favor of doing more and less.

Michael Clemens

Michael Clemens

Unfortunately, the many assumptions driving the fierce debates over how to respond to these mass migrations are plain wrong, explains Clemens. For example, he says, migrants generally pay more into public services than they take out. The idea that migrants just arrive and constitute a drain on a community’s social services or local economy is not borne out by the evidence.

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The discussion, between East Correspondent Tom Murphy and Clemens, explores the many benefits of migration and also examines migration as a powerful tool in the fight against poverty. Clemens also bats down the myth of brain drain and shares how a simple policy decision could have helped Haiti immensely following the 2010 earthquake.

Prior to Murphy’s chat with Clemens, Humanosphere executive editor Tom Paulson and I review some of the news highlights this week including the President of China Xi Jinping’s visit to Seattle and how global health factors into that relationship, the official launch of a new agenda for fighting poverty and inequity at the United Nations General Assembly and a story by Katie G. Nelson, our East Africa Correspondent, on Uganda backing of its plan to curtail the freedom of NGOs and humanitarian organizations.

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About Author

Gabe Spitzer

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, after a year covering youth and education. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago.