Paul Collier and Justin Sandefur are discussing migration with recent postings on the popular From Poverty to Power blog hosted by Duncan Green of OXFAM. But, can we please first agree on the question?
Collier’s blog-post starts with the question of how emigration affects people in countries of origin, and goes on to emphasize that the pertinent issue is “whether poor countries would be better off with somewhat faster, or somewhat slower emigration than they have currently.” His answer, in a nutshell, is that it depends: on the country of origin (“in small countries that are falling further behind … brain drain predominates” when there is further skilled migration) and the emigrant (students – good, unskilled – fine, skilled worker – may already be excessive). To this, one could also add that it depends on the host country (and the scope for migrants realizing their potential there) and the circumstances of the migration (voluntary or forced).
In an earlier post, we highlighted a feature of the global pattern of investment in recent times: that since 2000, developing countries have gradually increased their share of global investment, moving from around 20 percent through much of the second half of the last century, to around 46 percent by 2010. The rapidity of this rise notwithstanding, the natural question is whether this trend will continue into the future.
Answering this question---on changing patterns of global investment---is one of the main concerns of the most recent edition of the Global Development Horizons report, entitled Capital for the Future. In order to frame the question, the report considers how different countries will distinguish themselves in the global economy and, consequently, how by doing so they will provide investment opportunities that would attract financing from the pool of global saving.
My previous blog ended with a question about the usefulness of anticipating the long-term future if that future is highly uncertain. Ever since the 1982 article on “Trends and random walks in macroeconomic time series” by Nelson and Plosser, there has been a debate about the long-term statistical properties of GDP and other macroeconomic variables. Nelson and Plosser could not reject the hypothesis of a random walk (with drift), which means that random shocks have a permanent impact on the level of GDP and that the uncertainty interval around forecasts becomes wider and wider with every year you try to peek farther into the future. The message seems to be: If next year’s world is already very uncertain, don’t even bother forecasting the world in 2030.
Others found that “macroeconomic time series are best construed as stationary fluctuations around a deterministic trend function”, if you allow for a few structural breaks in the trend. The consequences for long-term forecasting are huge because, in this case, random shocks are transitory, there is mean reversion, and it is in fact easier to analyze long-term trends than short-term fluctuations.
Ninety years ago, in his A Tract on Monetary Reform Keynes famously wrote “In the long run we are all dead”. That observation recently stirred a lot of debate for all the wrong reasons, after Niall Ferguson obnoxiously claimed that Keynes did not care about the future because he was childless. Whether Keynes cared about the long-term future or not (and whether he had children or not) is completely irrelevant in this context, as many (e.g. Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman) have pointed out.
The actual context in which Keynes wrote this observation was a discussion about the quantity theory of money, which states that doubling the supply of money will only double the prices, but will have no consequences for other parts of the economy. This is the classical dichotomy between real and nominal variables. Keynes argued: “Now in the long run this is probably true”. But “In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.” So, Keynes’ point was obviously not that the future doesn’t matter. His point was that simple theories that might describe long-term relationships are just not good enough to deal with current issues. In the short run, changes in money supply can have all kinds of important consequences beyond the price levels. Economists will have to make their hands dirty and delve into the complicated dynamics of the here and now.
Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.
Middle class gained on Twitter, with many people taking note of Thomas Friedman’s The Virtual Middle Class Rises. Friedman’s op-ed is about how cheaper computing is enabling people who earn only a few dollars a day to access the “kind of technologies and learning previously associated solely with the middle class.” Such access is driving social change and social protest, he says. It’s a trend also observed by sociologist and author Saskia Sassen in an interview with The Hindu, Why the Middle Class is Revolting, though Sassen’s vision is more pessimistic. Another trend—a sharp, decade-long rise in “middle class” jobs in developing countries—is enlarging the middle class in the developing world and promises ultimately to drive global growth, says the International Labour Organization in a new study. ILO says nearly 1.1 billion workers (42%) earn between $4 and $13 a day, which is middle class wages in the developing world. The number of middle class workers in developing countries is expected to grow by 390 million to reach 51.9% by 2017. The report notes, however, that “progress in poverty reduction has slowed” and the number of “near poor” is growing. Also check out the Guardian’s datablog on the report.
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.