Diasporas

The Role of the Diaspora in the Internationalization of the Colombian Economy

After surveying over 30% of the diaspora of Colombia, Growth Lab researchers and their co-authors studied a number of factors related to this diaspora.

In this Growth Lab podcast, Ana Grisanti interviews Professors Ricardo Hausmann, Annalee Saxenian, and Ljubica Nedlkoska, who describe the internationalization mission in Colombia, the role of the diaspora in this mission, and the policy implications of this research.

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Grisanti, A., et al., 2021. Colombian Diaspora Survey Results Dashboard. Publisher's VersionAbstract
As part of the "Role of the Diaspora in the Internationalization of the Colombian Economy" project, Growth Lab researchers surveyed 11,500 members of the Colombian diaspora, located in well over 100 countries. They studied the migration journeys, the diaspora’s attachment to Colombia, the level of diaspora engagement and interest in engaging, the intentions to return back home, the interest in diaspora government policy, and the overall sentiment of the diaspora towards Colombia.

The Role of the Diaspora in the Internationalization of the Colombian Economy

As of 2021, about ten percent of the Colombian population, or five million Colombians mainly resided outside Colombia. As Colombians live and work abroad, they develop perspectives that are different from those of the Colombians that never migrated. Some are learning to use more advanced technology at the job in a foreign firm, some are learning cutting edge skills in a foreign university, some are immersing in a new language and a new cultural experience through relationships with non-Colombian partners, and some are even working on groundbreaking inventions and innovations involving...

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Nedelkoska, L., et al., 2021. The Role of the Diaspora in the Internationalization of the Colombian Economy.Abstract
We studied the geography as well as the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of 1.7 million members of the global Colombian diaspora (34% of the total estimated Colombian diaspora) using census and survey data from major host countries, and 3.5 million Twitter users located around the world presumed to be of Colombian origin. We also studied the locations and industries of Colombian senior managers and directors outside Colombia, using a global database of over 400 million companies. Moreover, we studied the migration journeys, the diaspora’s attachment to Colombia, the level of diaspora engagement and interest in engaging, the intentions to return back home, the interest in diaspora government policy, and the overall sentiment of the diaspora towards Colombia, through a survey which received 11,500 responses from the diaspora in well over 100 countries in less than two months. We additionally interviewed 12 Colombian transnational entrepreneurs and professionals, to understand what attracts them professionally to Colombia, and what may stand in the way of more diaspora engagement and professional growth.

Engaging Diasporas Around the World

On April 1, 2021, researchers at the Growth Lab shared insights and approaches to understanding global diasporas and diaspora engagement. Not all diaspora groups are equal, and they interact with their host country in a myriad of ways. The Growth Lab has worked in several contexts, including Albania, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Ethiopia, Jordan, among others, and shared an overview of what we have learned and implications for future research and policy implementation.

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Nedelkoska, L. & Khaw, N., 2015. The Albanian Community in the United States: Statistical Profiling of the Albanian-Americans, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

When the Albanian Communist regime fell in 1991-92, many Albanians saw their future outside the borders of Albania. At that time in history, no one anticipated the scale of migration that would take place in the subsequent two decades. Today, one third of Albania’s 1991 population lives abroad. Most of these migrants live and work in neighboring Greece and Italy. The third most popular destination is however the United States. Besides this new wave of migrants, the US has an old Albanian diaspora–the offspring of migrants who came to the US between the First and the Second World War. This is what mainly gives rise to the second generation Albanian-Americans.

To the best of our knowledge, there is currently no systematic documentation of the socio-demographic and economic characteristics of the Albanian community in the US. To bridge this gap, we use data from the American Community Survey 2012 and analyze these characteristics. The profiling could be of interest for anyone who focuses on the Albanians abroad – the Government’s Programs dealing with diaspora and migration issues, researchers interested in migration questions, the Albanian Community Organizations in the US or the diaspora members themselves.

We find that the first and the second generation Albanian-Americans have distinctive features. The first generation (those who arrived after the fall of Communism) is more educated than the non-Albanian Americans with comparable demographics. This is particularly true of Albanian women. The education of the second generation resembles more closely the US population with comparable demographic characteristics.

Despite the qualification advantage, first generation Albanian-Americans earn much less than non-Albanian Americans with comparable socio-demographic characteristics. We find that this is not associated with being Albanian per se but with being an immigrant more generally. The migrant-native gap narrows down with time spent in the US.

An important channel through which the current gap is maintained is qualification mismatch. We observe that first generation Albanian-Americans are over-represented in occupations requiring little skills and under-represented in occupations requiring medium and high skills, in direct contrast to them being more educated than non-Albanians.

When it comes to the earnings of second generation Albanian-Americans, the situation is more nuanced. The low skilled Albanian-Americans earn significantly more, and the highly skilled Albanian-Americans earn significantly less than the non-Albanian Americans with comparable socio-demographic characteristics. We currently do not have a straightforward explanation for this pattern.

The Albanian population in the US is highly concentrated in a few states: New York, Michigan and Massachusetts account for almost 60% of all Albanian Americans. The community in Massachusetts is the best educated; best employed and has the highest earnings among the three, but is also the oldest one in terms of demographics.

However, due to its sheer size (over 60,000 Albanian-Americans), New York is the host of most Albanians with BA degree (about 10,000). New York also hosts the largest number of high earning Albanians (about 1,800 earn at least $100,000 a year).

Nedelkoska, L. & Kosmo, M., 2015. Albanian-American Diaspora Survey Report, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

This survey studies the ways in which active Albanian-Americans would like to engage in the development of their home countries. Its results will help us define the focus of the upcoming events organized under the Albanian Diaspora Program.

Between March 6th and March 22nd 2015, 1,468 Albanian-Americans took part in the online survey, of which 869 completed the survey. The results presented in this report are based on the answers of the latter group. The results of this survey do not represent the opinions of the general Albanian-American community, but rather the opinions of those who are more likely to engage in an Albanian Diaspora Program.

The survey was jointly prepared with the following Albanian-American organizations: Massachusetts Albanian American Society (MAAS/BESA), Albanian American Success Stories, Albanian Professionals in Washington D.C., Albanian Professionals and Entrepreneurs Network (APEN), Albanian-American Academy, Albanian American National Organization, and VATRA Washington D.C. Chapter. The survey was sponsored by the Open Society Foundations, as a part of the grant OR2013-10995 Economic Growth in Albania granted to the Center for International Development at Harvard University.

Welcome Home in a Crisis: Effects of Return Migration on the Non-migrants' Wages and Employment
Hausmann, R. & Nedelkoska, L., 2018. Welcome Home in a Crisis: Effects of Return Migration on the Non-migrants' Wages and Employment. European Economic Review , 101 (January 2018) , pp. 101-132. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The recent economic depression in Greece hit the population of Albanian migrants in Greece particularly hard, spurring a wave of return migration that increased the Albanian labor force by 5% in less than four years, between 2011 and 2014. We study how this return migration affected the employment chances and earnings of Albanians who never migrated. We find positive effects on the wages of low-skilled non-migrants and overall positive effects on employment. The gains partially offset the sharp drop in remittances in the observed period. An important part of the employment gains are concentrated in the agricultural sector, where most return migrants engage in self-employment and entrepreneurship. Businesses run by return migrants seem to pull Albanians from non-participation, unemployment and subsistence agriculture into commercial agriculture.
O'Brien, T., Nedelkoska, L. & Frasheri, E., 2017. What is the Binding Constraint to Growth in Albania?, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

About four years ago, at the onset of CID’s engagement in Albania, the country faced two issues that were threatening its macro-fiscal stability: a skyrocketing public debt and an insolvent, publicly-owned electricity distribution system that was plagued by theft and technical inefficiency. These two interlinked issues constrained both short-term economic growth and the ability of the country to develop new drivers of long-term growth. Over the subsequent years, the government was able to successfully respond to these constraints through a now-concluded IMF program and through a series of reforms in the electricity sector. With these constraints now relaxed, CID saw the need for a new analysis of the current and emerging constraints to growth in Albania. This analysis will guide future research and inform the government and non-government actors on emerging economic issues for prioritization.

While growth has accelerated over the last several years, to over 3% in 2016, this is not a pace that will allow for a rapid convergence of incomes and well-being in Albania with that of developed countries in Europe and elsewhere. This growth diagnostic attempts to identify the binding constraint to sustainably higher economic growth in Albania.

Recognizing that economic growth requires a number of complementary inputs, from roads to human capital to access to finance and many more, this report compares across eight potentially binding constraints using the growth diagnostic methodology to identify which constraint is most binding. This research was conducted throughout 2016, building on prior research conducted by CID and other organizations in Albania. Each constraint discussed in this report is cited by analysts within or outside the country as the biggest problem for growth in Albania. Through the growth diagnostic framework, we are able to evaluate the evidence and show that some constraints are more binding than others.

Despite serious issues in many other areas, we find that the binding constraint to stronger growth in Albania is a lack of productive knowhow. By “knowhow,” we mean the knowledge and skills needed to produce complex goods and services. Albania faces a unique knowhow constraint that is deeply rooted in its closed-off past, and the limited diversification that has taken place in the private sector can, in nearly all cases, be linked to distinct inflows of knowhow. The strongest sources of knowhow inflows into Albania have been through foreign direct investment and immigration, especially returning members of the diaspora who start new businesses or upgrade the productivity of existing businesses.

The evidence also points to particular failings in rule of law in Albania that play an important role in keeping Albania in a low-knowhow equilibrium. Weaknesses in Albania’s rule of law institutions, including frequent policy reversals and corruption in the bureaucracy and judiciary, increase the risk of investments and transaction costs of business. While it is difficult to separate perceptions from reality in this area, both perceptions of weak rule of law and actual rule of law failings appear to play critical roles in constraining more diversified investment in Albania. We find that while existing firms in Albania successfully navigate the rule of law weaknesses, and in some cases benefit from the system, potential new investors are acutely sensitive to rule of law issues.

 

Hausmann, R. & Nedelkoska, L., 2017. Welcome Home in a Crisis: Effects of Return Migration on the Non-migrants' Wages and Employment.Abstract

The recent economic depression in Greece hit the population of Albanian migrants in Greece particularly hard, spurring a wave of return migration which increased the Albanian labor force by 5 percent in less than four years, between 2011 and 2014. We study how this return migration affected the employment chances and earnings of Albanians who never migrated. We find positive effects on the wages of low-skilled non-migrants and overall positive effects on employment. The gains partially offset the sharp drop in remittances in the observed period. An important part of the employment gains are concentrated in the agricultural sector, where most return migrants engage in self-employment and entrepreneurship. Businesses run by return migrants seem to pull Albanians from non-participation, unemployment and subsistence agriculture into commercial agriculture. 

Orozco, M., 2015. The Demand for and Supply of Nostalgic Products among the Albanian-Americans: A Survey, Growth Lab at Harvard's Center for International Development.Abstract

The U.S. is home to more than 200,000 ethnic Albanians, about half of whom are emigrants from the Republic of Albania. Despite the significant Albanian population in the U.S., official trade of Albanian goods in the U.S. almost does not exist.

We surveyed about 200 Albanian-Americans and several stores offering goods imported from the Balkan region of Europe in three U.S. metropolitan areas with large Albanian population in order to study their purchasing habits. We found that the willingness to purchase products from the region of origin is certainly not matched by an adequate supply. The stores which offer such products are few, often hard to reach and offer limited supplies of a small variety of commodities. In the study, we recommend steps to strengthen the market for nostalgic good through continued market research, trade-related technical assistance, diaspora-donor partnerships for nostalgic trade development and trade fairs.