After hearing politicians in the United States and Europe blame immigrants for economic and social problems, Ian Goldin decided to write a book about the positive impacts of immigration, using economics to back his arguments.
Goldin, the director of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford and a former vice president of the World Bank, will speak at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater on the topic of migration, drawing from his 2011 book Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future.
Goldin will discuss the many aspects of migration, including immigration and emigration. He will address how migration impacts the receiving and sending countries and communities, how it shapes the national and the global economy, and how it has evolved over time.
Much of Goldin’s book outlines the positive benefits that immigration provides for developed countries. Goldin said he believes immigration has become a highly political issue in developed countries — especially now as many countries struggle to recover from the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
“Particularly in times of economic crisis, people are looking for someone to blame for high levels of unemployment, for difficulties in their lives, and blaming foreigners is a very easy thing for politicians to do,” he said. “And it’s a natural thing for us to do as citizens. Some politicians have really played into this.”
Despite regularly facing low wages and discrimination, Goldin believes immigrants coming to the U.S. and other developed countries are generally made better off than they were in their home countries.
“I think the evidence for that is the fact that they do it and that more people want to do it,” he said.
Frequently, those who migrate do not do so only for their own benefit, but for the benefit of their families and home communities, Goldin said. For example, the oldest son in a family might immigrate to a developed country to earn a higher income in order to pay for his siblings’ schooling or to build a home for his parents.
“Very often migrants are migrating on behalf of others, which is one of the reasons I call the book Exceptional People. They are truly exceptional in many respects,” he said. “They often take large risks to migrate. They leave their families and their loved ones very often, so it’s a very personal loss.”
Because many people who immigrate to a foreign country face so many obstacles, Goldin believes they are often hardworking individuals who contribute significantly to society. Migrants comprise a large percentage of the population in the Silicon Valley and are also entrepreneurs, Academy Award winners and Nobel Prize winners, Goldin said.
“Migrants are the most dynamic people in society,” he said. “They are brave people prepared to take risks and break the laws of the societies they’re in by leaving them.”
He said migrants contribute to both the skilled and unskilled labor force, and in particular, the female labor force.
“[Female immigrants] are doing things like child care services, hospital services and restaurant services,” he said. “Female participation in the labor force would be much lower without immigrants.”
Goldin said immigrants to the U.S. contribute more money into the economy in taxes than they take out in welfare costs. And perhaps most crucially, immigration balances the demographics of developed countries, as many of them are experiencing population decline.
“The U.S. has a much healthier demographic than most other societies — certainly than Europe — in a significant part because of immigrants who are having more kids,” he said.
Migration has always been the basis of American society, Goldin said, which was founded by migrants and experienced waves of migration in the 19th and 20th centuries. By writing his book, he said he hopes he can help settle the debate on immigration in developed countries.
“The media has been very bad at telling the facts,” he said. “This tends to be a debate that is informed by emotion rather than fact. One of the reasons I wrote the book was to put the facts on the table.”