Migration & Mobility

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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Schetter, U. & Tejada, O., 2020. On Globalization and the Concentration of Talent: A General Result on Superstar Effects and Matching.Abstract
We analyze how globalization affects the allocation of talent across competing teams in large matching markets. Focusing on amplified superstar effects, we show that a convex transformation of payoffs promotes positive assortative matching. This result holds under minimal assumptions on how skills translate into competition outcomes and how competition outcomes translate into payoffs. Our analysis covers many interesting special cases, including simple extensions of Rosen (1981) and Melitz (2003) with competing teams. It also provides new insights on the distributional consequences of globalization, and on the role of technological change, urban agglomeration, and taxation for the composition of teams.
revised October 2020
Lora, E., 2020. Income Changes after Inter-city Migration.Abstract
Using panel data for workers who change jobs, changes in several labor outcomes after inter-city migration are estimated by comparing workers in similar circumstances who move to a new city –the treatment group—with those who stay in the same city –the control group. After matching the two groups using Mahalanobis distances over a wide range of covariates, the methodology of “difference-in-difference treatment effects on the treated” is used to estimate changes after migration. On average, migrants experience income gains but their dedication to formal employment becomes shorter. Income changes are very heterogenous, with low-wage workers and those formerly employed by small firms experiencing larger and more sustained gains. The propensity to migrate by groups of sex, age, wage level, initial dedication, initial firm size and size of city of origin is significantly and directly correlated with the expected cumulative income gains of migration, and inversely with the uncertainty of such gains.

Horrible trade-offs in a pandemic: Analysis and policy implications

August 29, 2020

Ricardo Hausmann and Ulrich Schetter for Vox EU

Countries all over the world are fighting COVID-19 by reducing social and economic interactions, measures that have proven effective in parts of the world but are extremely costly. We are in the midst of the deepest recession since the great depression, and World GDP is expected to fall by 4.9% in 2020, with two-digit declines in many countries (IMF 2020). A series of excellent papers suggest that the huge costs in terms of livelihoods are justified by the gains in terms of lives saved from the pandemic (e.g. Acemoglu et...

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Knowledge Diffusion in the Network of International Business Travel
Coscia, M., Neffke, F. & Hausmann, R., 2020. Knowledge Diffusion in the Network of International Business Travel. Nature Human Behaviour , 4 (10). Publisher's VersionAbstract

We use aggregated and anonymized information based on international expenditures through corporate payment cards to map the network of global business travel. We combine this network with information on the industrial composition and export baskets of national economies. The business travel network helps to predict which economic activities will grow in a country, which new activities will develop and which old activities will be abandoned. In statistical terms, business travel has the most substantial impact among a range of bilateral relationships between countries, such as trade, foreign direct investments and migration. Moreover, our analysis suggests that this impact is causal: business travel from countries specializing in a specific industry causes growth in that economic activity in the destination country. Our interpretation of this is that business travel helps to diffuse knowledge, and we use our estimates to assess which countries contribute or benefit the most from the diffusion of knowledge through global business travel.

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Bahar, D., Rapoport, H. & Turati, R., 2020. Does Birthplace Diversity Affect Economic Complexity? Cross-country Evidence.Abstract
We empirically investigate the relationship between a country’s economic complexity and the diversity in the birthplaces of its immigrants. Our cross-country analysis suggests that countries with higher birthplace diversity by one standard deviation are more economically complex by 0.1 to 0.18 standard deviations above the mean. This holds particularly for diversity among highly educated migrants and for countries at intermediate levels of economic complexity. We address endogeneity concerns by instrumenting diversity through predicted stocks from a pseudo-gravity model as well as from a standard shift-share approach. Finally, we provide evidence suggesting that birthplace diversity boosts economic complexity by increasing the diversification of the host country’s export basket.
Bahar, D., Choudhury, P. & Rapoport, H., 2020. Migrant Inventors and the Technological Advantage of Nations.Abstract

We investigate the relationship between the presence of migrant inventors and the dynamics of innovation in the migrants’ receiving countries. We find that countries are 25 to 60 percent more likely to gain advantage in patenting in certain technologies given a twofold increase in the number of foreign inventors from other nations that specialize in those same technologies. For the average country in our sample, this number corresponds to only 25 inventors and a standard deviation of 135. We deal with endogeneity concerns by using historical migration networks to instrument for stocks of migrant inventors. Our results generalize the evidence of previous studies that show how migrant inventors "import" knowledge from their home countries, which translates into higher patenting in the receiving countries. We interpret these results as tangible evidence of migrants facilitating the technology-specific diffusion of knowledge across nations.

Bahar, D., et al., 2019. Migration and Post-conflict Reconstruction: The Effect of Returning Refugees on Export Performance in the Former Yugoslavia.Abstract
During the early 1990s Germany offered temporary protection to over 700,000 Yugoslavian refugees fleeing war. By 2000, many had been repatriated. We exploit this natural experiment to investigate the role of migrants in post-conflict reconstruction in the former Yugoslavia, using exports as outcome. Using confidential social security data to capture intensity of refugee workers to German industries–and exogenous allocation rules for asylum seekers within Germany as instrument—we find an elasticity of exports to return migration between 0.08 to 0.24. Our results are stronger in knowledge-intensive industries and for workers in occupations intensive in analytical and managerial skills.
The Mobility of Displaced Workers: How the Local Industry Mix Affects Job Search
Neffke, F., Otto, A. & Hidalgo, C., 2018. The Mobility of Displaced Workers: How the Local Industry Mix Affects Job Search. Journal of Urban Economics , 108 (November 2018) , pp. 124-140. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Are there Marshallian externalities in job search? We study how workers who lose their jobs in establishment closures in Germany cope with their loss of employment. About a fifth of these displaced workers do not return to social-security covered employment within the next three years. Among those who do get re-employed, about two-thirds leave their old industry and one-third move out of their region. However, which of these two types of mobility responses workers will choose depends on the local industry mix in ways that are suggestive of Marshallian benefits to job search. In particular, large concentrations of one’s old industry makes it easier to find new jobs: in regions where the pre-displacement industry is large, displaced workers suffer relatively small earnings losses and find new work faster. In contrast, large local industries skill-related to the pre-displacement industry increase earnings losses but also protect against long-term unemployment. Analyzed through the lens of a job-search model, the exact spatial and industrial job-switching patterns reveal that workers take these Marshallian externalities into account when deciding how to allocate search efforts among industries.
The workforce of pioneer plants: The role of worker mobility in the diffusion of industries
Hausmann, R. & Neffke, F., 2018. The workforce of pioneer plants: The role of worker mobility in the diffusion of industries. Research Policy. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Does technology require labour mobility to diffuse? To explore this, we use German social-security data and ask how plants that pioneer an industry in a location – and for which the local labour market offers no experienced workers – assemble their workforces. These pioneers use different recruiting strategies than plants elsewhere: they hire more workers from outside their industry and from outside their region, especially when workers come from closely related industries or are highly skilled. The importance of access to experienced workers is highlighted in the diffusion of industries from western Germany to the post-reunification economy of eastern German. While manufacturing employment declined in most advanced economies, eastern German regions managed to reindustrialise. The pioneers involved in this process relied heavily on expertise from western Germany: while establishing new manufacturing industries in the East, they sourced half of their experienced workers from the West.

Originally published as CID Working Paper 310

The knowhow path to Sri Lankan development

September 5, 2018

Ricardo Hausmann - DailyFT

When Adam Smith wrote ‘The Wealth of Nations’ in 1776, the richest country in the world was four times richer than the poorest one. Today, Singapore is over 110 times richer than Burundi. What could possibly explain such an extreme divergence of the wealth of nations? 

Economists have shown that these differences are too large to be explained by differences in the availability of land or capital – including human capital. So, they ascribe it to differences in the productivity with which land and capital are used,...

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