Category Archives: economics research

Economics of Immigration

However strong the moral and humanitarian case for immigration is, people across the western world seem to be deeply divided on the issue primarily because of the perceived negative impact of immigration on their current living standards. In the US this is evident from the political rhetoric surrounding current Presidential race and in the UK in relation to the question of staying or exiting from the EU (Brexit). I think a couple of recent papers on these issues could throw some more meat at the debate and strengthen the public discourse.

Linsensova and Sancez-Martinez (2016) talk about the long term impacts of lower migration to UK. Here is a summary of their findings.

This paper looks at the possible scenarios of migration policy should the UK leave the EU. The paper uses an OLG model which brings together labour market, fiscal and other macroeconomic effects in one framework. It also adds a dynamic perspective, differentiates between natives and different categories of immigrants and captures age and qualification compositional effects. The paper compares the two migration scenarios: Leave and Remain. By 2065, in the Leave scenario, aggregate GDP and GDP per person are 9% and 1% respectively lower compared to Remain scenario. Reduced migration after leaving the EU has a negative impact on the public finances, because of higher dependency ratio. This requires an increase in taxation of about £400 per person (2014 pounds) in 2065. The results are sensitive to the assumptions that change productivity of the labour force and dependency ratio.

A paper presented at the 2016 ASSA meetings by Jeffrey Sachs talks about the need for an international migration regime. It has some interesting suggestions for research that would help develop a clearer perspective on what such regime should look like.  Reading this paper also reminded me of an interesting paper by Jess Benhabib titled, “Optimal Migration: A World Perspective“. Here is what the paper has to say about the level of migration that would maximize world welfare.

We ask what level of migration would maximize world welfare. Welfare is assumed to be a weighted average of the utilities of the world’s various citizens, but the weights are also country specific. Using a calibrated one-sector model, we find that unless the weights are heavily biased toward the natives of rich countries, the extent of migration that would be optimal far exceeds the levels observed today. The claim remains true in a two-sector extension of the model. All versions of the model assume that migration is the only redistributive tool.

In general, it looks like if we just think narrowly about the impact of immigration on a particular country or a geographical area, the answer may or may not be convincing. But if we think about the issue in terms of the welfare of the world economy, there seems to be a sufficiently strong argument for moving people from the developing countries to the developed ones. The main problem is that the costs and benefits of migration are not only economic in nature. There are significant non-economic adjustment costs as people belonging to different cultural and social backgrounds come together. Also, there is a significant time dimension to all the costs and benefits with costs somehow perceived to be more pronounced in the short run and benefits spread over the long run. Unfortunately, the political debate on both sides of the Atlantic has been feeding off the fear that is primarily based on short term costs like rising unemployment which is often more localized and sector specific than being pervasive. The rising religious fundamentalism across the globe has only fueled this fear suggesting that the case for making academic discourse more accessible to general public has never been stronger!

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A new blog based on microeconomics research!

This blog looks really interesting- should be on your reading list if you are interested in economic research informing policy and public debate.

Courtsey: Greg Mankiw’s blog

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Economics of Gun Ownership and Violence!

Some pearls of wisdom from a university President, “I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them,” he said during the school’s convocation, before teasing the students about his own gun.” You can find the news here.
Notwithstanding the obvious shameless religious fearmongering the statement enthuses, I thought the following might be worth thinking about or at least have students of economics talk about:
In a game with two actions- have a gun or not, is “have a gun” a dominant strategy making gun ownership a Nash equilibrium of a Prisoners Dilemma? More so, once everyone carries a gun, will we automatically never use ours, as argued in the case of nuclear arms race? What do you think?
On the other hand, there is also an argument of negative externality of gun ownership. The recent shooting in San Bernardino lead to a $17 million expenditure on treating the 250 odd victims, out of which $12 million came from tax payers pockets. This makes gun ownership a strong case of negative externality- and we know how to correct those- tax gun ownership heavily. Of course the question is what is the optimal tax rate- certainly a fruitful research question!

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ASSA 2014 Highlights

Despite the awful arctic cold wave, attending ASSA 2014 in Philadelphia was a delight as it is every year! The sheer amount of energy and enthusiasm that comes from such a large professional gathering is really unparalleled. Economists also seem to be getting better at entertaining themselves, if this year’s music and humor sessions are any indicator. But most off all, for me, the highlights were AEA/AFA luncheon with the recent Nobel Laureates Ms. Fama, Shiller and Hansen 🙂 and continuing education series on Economic Growth.

Due to illness, Fama could not actually make it to the luncheon but he was ably represented by his long time coauthor Ken French. The conversations were well facilitated by Luigi Zingales of Chicago Booth. Some interesting highlights:

On bubbles: There is nothing called as bubbles- there is only volatility in asset prices.

Take on market efficiency: Bob Shiller thinks that efficiency of markets is only half truth but nonetheless a very significant one. Hansen responded by saying that the function of financial markets is aiding resource allocation in the economy. Hence, the more important question is about its role in promoting allocative efficiency. This, according to me, is one of the clearer statements of how economists should look at the process of financial intermediation.

While elaborating on the half truth comment, Shiller, who came across as an extremely soft spoken yet a very candid speaker, said that any profession should be wary of ‘group think’. This refers to the blind spots that professionals develop to obvious gaps in understanding a phenomenon as more and more people buy into the dominant thinking framework. That was a very interesting point.

Optimal Investment Strategy: If markets cannot be predicted, what should be the optimal investment strategy? According to Shiller, people should seek advice from paid professionals and there should be more of them available.

The second interesting session I attended was ” What Macroeconomists should know about finance?”. It was a panel discussion constituted by Markus Brunnermeier, Atif Mian, and Arvind Krishnamurthy. Some interesting points about macro-finance linkages that were made in this discussion were as follows:

1. Atif Mian: Debt matters for macro aggregates through:

  • Asset Price Channel: asset prices declined faster in states where foreclosure laws are laxed.
  • Aggregate Demand Channel: HH that suffer higher net wealth shocks cut back on spending. Higher level of leverage means that aggregate losses are going to be shared by levered households disproportionately. Decrease in demand leads to reduction in tradable and non tradable jobs.
  • Financial Rigidity Channel: absence of state contingent debt. Rigidity in financial contracts. Hence, important question is why are private contracts not optimal from macro perspective.
  • Endogenous risk = systemic risk

2.  Arvind Krishnamurthy:

  • Multiple asset prices- Do not respond in synchronous manner.
  • Careful thought to Intermediary asset pricing is needed.
  • Market segmentation: Importance looking at process of intermediation for macro.
  • Changes in risk premia are not included in standard macro.
  • Capital structure of financial firms is not irrelevant as macro assumes.

3. Markus Brunnermeier: Unfortunately I missed this presentation-I definitely blame it on cold weather 😉

The best part was the continuing education series on economic growth. Oded Galor and David Weil did an extremely good job of summarizing the existing research, commenting on intricacies of research designs and giving a clear picture of what we know about economic growth till now. Further, Galor’s Unified Growth Theory is a sure winner according to me. His paper on genetic diversity and comparative economic development was supremely exciting! You can access his research from his IDEAS page. You can access David’s research on health and economic growth here.

Update (January 11, 2014): Not sure why and how I missed this- Claudia Goldin’s Presidential address tops everything-you can watch it here.

Update (January 19, 2014): Interesting presentation on Railways and Famines in India. Check it out here.


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