E.g., 09/28/2023
E.g., 09/28/2023
Migration and Development: Policy Perspectives from the United States
June 2011

Migration and Development: Policy Perspectives from the United States

As migration has become an increasingly visible global phenomenon in recent decades, there has been a surge in interest in the complex relationship between migration and the development prospects of migrants’ countries of origin. The United States’ historic openness and commitment to immigrants’ economic success has been a powerful force for social and economic development in poor countries. But while individual migrants and their families tend to benefit from the decision to seek opportunities abroad, the consequences for migrant communities and countries of origin are more ambiguous.

In some countries, substantial emigration has coincided with development. Still, it has rarely been the cause of it: the basic ingredients for development predated or were independent of the large-scale migration of labor. Similarly, where substantial emigration has not coincided with development, forces other than emigration have been at work.

There is extensive evidence that immigrant communities in the United States contribute resources, expertise, and energy to their communities—and sometimes countries—of origin. While poverty reduction via contributions through remittances is a strong development example, such actions vary country to country. The report examines U.S. immigration and international development policies, which have unique objectives and respond to distinct political and administrative constraints, and points out that international development has never been a U.S. immigration policy objective; nonetheless, it is an unintended consequence.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Theory and Evidence

A. Individual Motivations and the “Root Causes” of Migration

B. The Costs and Benefits of Migration for Origin Countries

III. Policy Experience and Outlook

A. Pre-1970s: Disconnected Policies

B. Mid-1970s to Mid-1980s: Development Assistance as an Antidote to Migration

C. Mid-1980s to Mid-1990s: The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) and the Embrace of Openness

D. Mid-1990s to Present: Unexpected Returns and Growing Unease with Openness

IV. Conclusion: The Unintended Impacts of Openness