Alexander Hamilton on Infant Industries

The idea that government should offer temporary support for starting up a new industry, until it becomes established and can stand on its own, has become known as the \”infant industry\” argument. The \”infant\” terminology, as well as a prominent example of the underlying argument, dates back to Alexander Hamilton\’s 1791 \”Report on Manufactures\” (available at various places around the web, like here and here).

However, Hamilton\’s discussion of how to support what he called \”infant manufactures\” (a term he uses only one time) isn\’t quite as simple as just using tariffs to protect a domestic industry from foreign competition. He is focused how to encourage new manufacturing industries, and he argues that \”bounties–that is, subsidies–funded from other government revenues are the best way to do so. Hamilton only argues for import tariffs as one way of collecting revenue for the government to provide such \”bounties.\” A few points worth noting about this line of argument would include:

1) Hamilton prefers bounties over tariffs, in part, because subsidies avoid raising the price of the good–as tariffs would tend to do. He recognizes that import tariffs cause an \”expense to the community,\” in the form of higher prices,and in this sense they are just like a tax that is used to support a government subsidy.  Conversely, Hamilton argues that explicit subsidies will tend to attract additional competition.

2) Hamilton also favors bounties because he notes that limits on imports only give a domestic producer an advantage in the home market, without providing any incentive for exporting. This suggests that the goal of supporting an infant industry, and a way such a policy can be judged, is whether it leads to export sales.

3) Hamilton emphasizes that any such \”infant manufactures\” policy should be temporary.

4) Hamilton also points out that the US manufacturers of his time already have a considerable advantage over foreign competition because they have much lower costs of transportation.

5) Hamilton\’s \”infant manufactures\” argument is not an argument for tariffs to protect jobs in existing established industries. It applies to subsidizing new industries.

6) From a political economy point of view, it\’s interesting to contemplate whether how a policy of using revenue from tariffs to fund subsidies for domestic industry would play in the contemporary world. It would make explicit, in the form of government collecting revenue and cutting checks, that that tariffs imposing costs to benefit a domestic industry. I don\’t know if this would make such a policy more popular or less so.

7) It\’s interesting to reconsider Hamilton\’s argument for bounties in the context of the modern economy. Modern governments have a lot of tools that give indirect support to new industry: for example, support of education at K-12 and university level, support of R&D, well-developed institutions of intellectual property, legal institutions that support enforceable contracts and financial markets, and so on. Modern governments also have sources and quantities of revenue undreamed  of in Hamilton\’s time: thus, a standard modern argument against tariffs is that if you want to subsidize a certain industry (and I\’m leaping over a Grand Canyon of arguments with that \”if\”), then setting up a situation in which domestic producers can charge consumers more (because of limited competition) is an odd and potentially counterproductive way to do it.

Here\’s the relevant passage from Hamilton:

Pecuniary bounties. This has been found one of the most efficacious means of encouraging manufactures, and is, in some views, the best. Though it has not yet been practised upon by the Government of the United States (unless the allowance on the expiration of dried and pickled fish and salted meat could be considered as a bounty), and though it is less favored by public opinion than some other modes, its advantages are these:

 1. It is a species of encouragement more positive and direct than any other, and, for that very reason, has a more immediate tendency to stimulate and uphold new enterprises, increasing the chances of profit, and diminishing the risks of loss, in the first attempts.

 2. It avoids the inconvenience of a temporary augmentation of price, which is incident to some other modes; or it produces it to, a less degree, either by making no addition to the charges on the rival foreign article, as in the case of protecting duties, or by making a smaller addition. The first happens when the fund for the bounty is derived from a different object (which may or may not increase the price of some other article, according  to the nature of that object), the second, when the fund is derived from the same, or a similar object, of foreign manufacture. One per cent. duty on the foreign article, converted into a bounty on the domestic, will have an equal effect with a duty of two per cent., exclusive of such bounty; and the price of the foreign commodity is liable to be raised, in the one case, in the proportion of one per cent.; in the other in that of two per cent. Indeed the bounty, when drawn from another source, is calculated to promote a reduction of price; because, without laying any new charge on the foreign article, it serves to introduce a competition with it, and to increase the total quantity of the article in the market.

3. Bounties have not, like high protecting duties, a tendency to produce scarcity. An in-crease of price is not always the immediate, though, where the progress of a domestic manufacture does not counteract a rise, it is, commonly, the ultimate effect of an additional duty. In the interval between the laying of the duty and the proportional increase of price, it may discourage importation, by interfering with the profits to be expected from the sale of the article.

4. Bounties are, sometimes, not only the best, but the only proper expedient for uniting the encouragement of a new object of agriculture with that of a new object of manufacture. It is the interest of the farmer to have the production of the raw material promoted by counteracting the interference of the foreign material of the same kind. It is the interest of the manufacturer to have the material abundant and cheap. If, prior to the domestic production of the material, in sufficient quantity to supply the manufacturer on good terms, a duty be paid upon the importation of it from abroad, with a view to promote the raising of it at home, the interest both of the farmer and manufacturer will be disserved. By either destroying the requisite supply, or raising the price of the article beyond whit can be afforded to be given for it by the conductor of an infant manufacture, it is abandoned or fails, and there being no domestic manufactories to create a demand for the raw material, which is raised by the farmer, it is in vain that the competition of the like foreign article may have been destroyed.

It cannot escape notice, that a duty upon the importation of an article can no otherwise aid the domestic production of it, than by giving the latter greater advantages in the home market. It can have no influence upon the advantageous sale of the article produced in foreign markets — no tendency, therefore, to promote its exportation.

The true way to conciliate these two interests is to lay a duty on foreign manufactures of the material, the growth of which is desired to be encouraged, and to apply the produce of that duty, by way of bounty, either upon the production of the material itself, or upon its manufacture at home, or upon both. In this disposition of the thing, the manufacturer commences his enterprise under every advantage which is attainable, as to quantity or price of the raw material; and the farmer, if the bounty be immediately to him, is enabled by it to enter into a successful competition with the foreign material. If the bounty be to the manufacturer, on so much of the domestic material as he consumes, the operation is nearly the same; he has a motive of interest to prefer the domestic commodity, if of equal quality, even at a higher price than the foreign, so long as the difference of price is any thing short of the bounty which is allowed upon the article.

Except the simple and ordinary kinds of household manufacture, or those for which there are very commanding local advantages, pecuniary bounties are, in most cases, indispensable to the introduction of a new branch. A stimulus and a support, not less powerful and direct, is, generally speaking, essential to the overcoming of the obstacles which arise from the competitions of superior skill and maturity elsewhere. Bounties are especially essential in regard to articles upon which those foreigners, who have been accustomed to supply a country, are in the practice of granting them.

The continuance of bounties on manufactures long established, must almost always be of questionable policy: because a presumption would arise, in every such case, that there were natural and inherent impediments to success. But, in new undertakings, they are as justifiable as they are oftentimes necessary.

There is a degree of prejudice against bounties, from an appearance of giving away the public money without all immediate consideration, and from a supposition that they serve to enrich particular classes, at the expense of the community. But neither of these sources of dislike will bear a serious examination. There is no purpose to which public money can be more beneficially applied, than to the acquisition of a new and useful branch of industry; no consideration more valuable, than a permanent addition to the general stock of productive labor.

 As to the second source of objections it equally lies against other modes of encouragement, which are admitted to be eligible. As often as a duty upon a foreign article makes an addition to its price, it causes an extra expense to the community, for the benefit of the domestic manufacturer. A bounty does no more. But it is the interest of the society, in each case, to submit to the temporary expense-which is more than compensated by all increase of industry and wealth; by an augmentation of resources and independence; and by the circumstance of eventual cheapness, which has been noticed in another place. It would deserve attention, however, in the employment of this species of encouragement in the United States, as a reason for moderating the degree of it in the instances in which it might be deemed eligible, that the great distance of this country- from Europe imposes very heavy charges on all the fabrics which are brought from thence, amounting to from fifteen to thirty per cent. of their value, according to their bulk

Economics and Satellite Data

Empirical work in economics has traditionally been based on numerical data: for example, data on prices and quantities or demographics, or data from government statisticians on GDP, employment, inflation, and the level of trade, or survey data on attitudes. But economics is starting to use data from satellites in a systematic way. Dave Donaldson and Adam Storeygard describe what\’s happening in \”The View from Above: Applications of Satellite Data in Economics,\” in the Fall 2016 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. (Full disclosure: I\’ve worked as Managing Editor of the JEP since the first issue in 1987.)

The possibilities of using imagery from the sky for illustrating economic differences has been apparent for some years. Two of the most prominent examples involve national borders: South and North Korea at night, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the daylight.

Here\’s a NASA photograph from 2014 of North and South Korea. For those of you whose Asian geography is a little shaky, these two Koreas countries sit on a peninsula, which is attached to China. In the bottom right of the picture is South Korea. The giant city of Seoul is the brightest light. while smaller cities like Gunsan show up as smaller areas of light. In the upper right portion of the photo is China. The dark area between the two–the land mass between the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan–is North Korea, whose capital city of Pyongyang appears as a very small illuminated dot. This picture is clearly telling something about electricity availability and consumption, and also about broader standard of living, in North Korea.

Here\’s some NASA imagery of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola. The Haiti side is deforested, almost denuded; the Dominican Republic side is not. The causes of deforestation are typically a combination very poor people looking for any firewood to burn and overgrazing of livestock. Again, this image tells you something about standard of living and goverance in two neighboring countries.

But as social scientists sometimes say, the plural of \”anecdote\” is not \”data.\” To have data, you need more than images. As Donaldson and Storeygard point out, a number of technological advances are coming together here. Satellite data is getting more detailed. They report:

\”Much of the publicly available satellite imagery used by economists provides readings for each of the hundreds of billions of 30-meter-by-30-meter grid cells of land surface on Earth. Many economic decisions (particularly land use decisions such as zoning, building types, or crop choice) are made at approximately this same level of spatial resolution. But since 1999, private companies have offered submeter imagery and, following a 2014 US government ruling, American companies are able to sell imagery at resolutions below 0.5 meters to nongovernment customers for the first time. This is important because even when a coarser unit of analysis is appropriate, 900 1-meter pixels provide far more information available for signal extraction than a single 30-meter pixel covering the same area.\”

Satellite imagery is of course not primarily about pretty photographs, but can gather a range of images across the spectrum. Machine learning and artificial intelligence can be used to categorize this data. Advances in computing power and clever algorithms for dealing with \”gridded\” data are making it possible to process all this information and to analyze it. The results provide a window on economic activity that is outside the traditional economic data.

For example, in a lot of places the story from \”night lights\” may tell you as much about GDP or economic growth as any official government statistics. They write:

\”In an annual panel of countries from 1992 to 2008, as well as the corresponding long difference, these authors estimate a lights-GDP elasticity of 0.28 to 0.32, with no evidence of nonlinearity or asymmetry between increases and decreases in lights. In the long difference, the lights-GDP relationship has a correlation coefficient of 0.53. Under a range of assumptions about measurement error of GDP in countries with good data, they estimate a structural elasticity of lights growth with respect to GDP growth of between 1.0 and 1.7.\”

In some cases, satellite imaged may offer a less-biased source of information. If you want to know about deforestation in Indonesia or Brazil, for example, satellite images may tell you more than government data reported by local politicians. If you want to know about the level of particulate air pollution, satellite images may be more trustworthy than government reporting.

If you want to know about how many buildings are in the mega-slums of certain cities in the developing world, looking at satellite images may beat government data. If you want to know about recent building, you can compare satellite images over time, or one study looked at the reflectivity of roofs–because more recent buildings will tend to have roofs that reflect more light. Here\’s an image from their paper of roofs in a city in Nairobi:

If you want to know about how drought affects armed conflict, satellite images may be the best data you can get. If you want to know about how local topography and weather affects the spreading of cities, or the location of dams, or the possibilities for altering crop production patterns, satellite data can be enormously useful.

If you want to know about poverty in developing countries, a recent paper in Science shows how to measure poverty with images of things like roads, water, and buildings that can be converted into estimates and maps of household consumption and assets for low-income areas.

Of course, traditional economic data is not going away, and many studies with satellite data used the new data together with traditional data. But the satellite data is getting better and more available at a rapid clip. Among the more recent examples are studies that use the data to \”count crowds of people and cars at events such as protests, political rallies, or peak shopping periods … Similarly, traffic volumes could be measured from snapshots of car densities.\” It\’s a new research frontier.

The Differences Between Selective and Nonselective in Higher Education

Caroline M. Hoxby delivered the 2016 Martin Feldstein Lecture at the National Bureau of Economic Research in July An edited and annotated version of her talk, \”The Dramatic Economics of the U.S. Market for Higher Education,\” is now available in the NBER Reporter (2016, Number 3, pp. 1-6).  You can also watch the full hour-long lecture online and view the slides at the NBER website.

Hoxby focuses much of her discussion on a comparison of more-selective and less-selective institutions. She presents evidence that the more-selective institutions spend more per student, but also have higher value-added per student. Interesting and perhaps disconcerting conclusions follow. She defines selectivity in this way:

\”Selectivity is holistic but, roughly speaking, the \”most\” selective institutions\’ average student has a combined (math plus verbal) SAT (or translated ACT) score above 1300, the 90th percentile among test-takers. (Since some students do not take the tests, this corresponds to the 96th percentile among all students.) \”Highly\” or \”very\” selective institutions have an average student with combined scores above the 75th percentile (about 1170). \”Selective\” (without a modifier) institutions ask students to submit scores, grades, and other materials and turn down those judged to be inadequately prepared. Schools with combined scores above 1000 (the 47th percentile) are at least modestly selective. Non-selective schools usually only require that a student have a high school diploma or the equivalent and often have average combined scores of 800 (the 15th percentile) or below. The divide between non-selective and modestly selective schools is rough but somewhere between 800 and 1000.\” 

In terms of the market for higher education, selective institutions compete with each other, and students applying to these institutions tend to apply outside their home area. Nonselective institutions face less competition, because most of their students are drawn from close to their geographic location.

Hoxby shows that selective colleges and universities spend a lot more per student than nonselective schools. Each dot on the graph represents a college or university. The horizontal axis shows the median SAT score for the school, so less selective schools are on the left and more selective schools are on the right. The vertical axis graphs \”instructional resources\” with light blue dots and \”core student resources\”–which also includes other students services and academic support–with the dark blue dots. This who attend a school where the median SAT is above about 1200 get a lot more resources than those whose attend less selective schools.


Indeed, the total education resources spent on students who attend selective colleges over their lifetime shows an even bigger gap, because such students are more likely to complete a four-year degree and to go on to graduate school education.

Not surprisingly, those who attend more selective colleges earn higher wages on average. What is perhaps more interesting is that even after using various methods to adjust for the differing quality of students, the higher selectivity schools also have higher value-added. For example, Hoxby has the data to do comparisons between students with similar test scores who apply to similar places, but end up at institutions with slightly different selectivity, or to compare student with similar test scores, but only some of whom were admitted to a school of greater selectivity. In this figure, the dark-blue dots and the right-hand axis shows the total wage and salary earnings over a lifetime for graduates of schools with different levels of selectivity. The light-blue dots show the value-added of institutions of different selectivity–that is, how much they add to wages after adjusting for the fact that their students had higher test scores in the first place.


There\’s an important underlying assumption here. For simplicity, Hoxby assumes that the value-added to attending a less-selective college is zero, and then measured the value-added of more-selective colleges relative to less-selective colleges.

Thus, the more selective institutions spend more per student, but also have higher value-added per student. If you take the gains per student and divide by the cost per student, you have a  measure of productivity. Hoxby does the calculation, and finds these patterns: Productivity is lower for low-selectivity schools, which mean that although students at these schools have much less spent on their higher education, they have even-lower value-added from that education (that is, even lower wage gains after taking their test scores into account). However, productivity is basically flat for schools ranging from moderately selective to highly selective. In other words, as schools become more selective they spend more on students but also have greater value-added for students (again, after adjusting for the test scores of those students), and these two factors tend to balance out so that productivity of a moderately selective school is pretty much the same as at a highly selective school.


Hoxby points out some interesting and perhaps disconcerting implications that flow from this analysis.

A common reaction that many people have to the first graph shown above is that it seems potentially inefficient that the selective schools spend more per student. Might the funds spent on higher education have a greater social return if, say, funds from Harvard or Stanford were instead spent at a less-selective school? Hoxby\’s analysis suggests that student with greater readiness for college who attend selective institutions also have higher value-added from a dollar of spending on higher education. From a broad social point of view, it makes economic sense to spend more on those at more-selective institutions.

Hoxby\’s analysis also suggests that if our social goal is to expand the number of students in college, it makes more sense to focus more heavily on improving K-12 education so that a greater number of students are college-ready, rather than just offering more loans or aid for college students. If improvements in K-12 education led to a substantially higher share of students being college-ready, then it would actually make sense from a social point of view to dramatically expand college spending per student–because students who are more college-ready would be positioned to take greater advantage of what college has to offer. In contrast, providing additinoal financing to send a greater share of students with low test scores to less-selective colleges may not have much social payoff.

However, Hoxby also provides evidence that there is considerable variability in the productivity of less-selective schools. It turns out that the 90th percentile of less selective schools actually has much higher productivity than the selective schools, while the 50th percentile and below of less selective schools have much lower productivity than the selective schools. Identifying the top 10-20% of less-selective institutions can be useful for students, and also for creating competitive pressures that help these schools to expand and put pressure on the less-selective and low-productivity schools to improve.

Fodder to Chew Over for US Election Day

As we all struggle with our emotions about the campaign and the potential outcome of this 2016 US election day, here is some food for thought from posts during the past couple of years about US voting and elections.

1) \”Ray Fair: The Economy is Tilting Republican\” (May 19, 2016)

Fair is a prominent macroeconomist who, every four years, looks at data on the economy and political outcomes. His analysis is that the relatively slow growth of the US economy should be tending to favor Republicans this year. Fair\’s most recent predictions are here. Of course, looking only at how past economic performance affect election outcomes means that all other factors about the personalities, performance, and policies of the candidates are not included–and those other factors probably matter a lot in the 2016 presidential election.

2) \”Sketching State Laws on Administration of Elections\” (September 26, 2016)

A US national election is actually 50 state elections, where the rules can vary along a number of dimensions like requirements for voter ID, what is allowed in terms of absentee or early voting, what determines recounts, and more.

3) \”Investigating Why People Vote\” (March 8, 2014)

One of classic questions in political economy is why anyone should bother to vote, given that the chance of your vote determining the outcome is so small. This clever experiment mixed together data on interviewing people about why they voted or not voted, and then comparing what people said to the actual data on whether they had voted. Thus, the authors can draw conclusions like \”Voters do not feel pride from saying they voted, but non-voters do feel shame\” and \”Non-voters lie and claim they voted half the time, while voters tell the truth.\”

4) \”What is Discouraging the Registered Voters Who Don\’t Vote?\” (July 28, 2015)

One of the surveys done by the US Census Bureau investigates this question. The answers are somewhat predictable, like \”too busy,\” \”out of town,\” \”ill,\” \”did not like candidates or campaign issues\” and others.

5) \”Should Voting Be Compulsory?\” (November 6, 2012)

I don\’t think so, but many countries disagree. Here\’s some evidence on compulsory voting, and links to arguments by modern political philosophers on both sides.

6) \”Ticket Splitting in US Elections\” (June 21, 2016)

The practice of voting for a presidential candidate of one party while voting for a House of Representatives candidate of the other party seems to been lower in the last few elections than it used to be.

7) \”The Rise in Political Polarization: Both Real and Exaggerated?\” (May 10, 2016)

Political polarization seems to be rising in the US, but people\’s perceptions of how much political polarization has risen seem to be exaggerated.

8) \”Political Polarization and Confirmation Bias\” (October 27, 2014)

Confirmation bias is the well-researched psychological insight that when people get new information, they tend to interpret that information in a way that confirms and strengthen their preexisting beliefs. Indeed, when two groups of people have opposite beliefs on an issue like, say, capital punishment, getting the same information causes both groups to be strengthened in the belief that they are correct! In this short essay, I discuss my concern that strong political partisanship is often interrelated with confirmation bias.

US Sentiments on Protectionism: A Breakdown

In the heat of the political season, it sometimes sounds as if American opinion has made a sharp swerve in the direction of opposing free trade. However, Cullen S. Hendrix argues that the data tells a more nuanced story in \”Protectionism in the 2016 Election: Causes and Consequences, Truths and Fictions,\” published by the Peterson Institute for International Economics (Policy Brief 16-20, November 2016). Cullen writes:

\”Two prominent explanations—that free trade is popular with elites but unpopular with the masses and that younger generations are more protectionist than older ones—can be rejected. Another three—the “China shock” sinking in, the current US electoral map privileging protectionist sentiment, and modern free trade agreements’ growing complexity—are more compelling. At root, the turn toward protectionism is the result of a disconnect between the United States’ rising trade exposure and a failure to adopt the social expenditure policies that have accompanied open markets in other advanced economies.\”

In response to the belief that free trade has become uniquely unpopular in the US, Hendrix offers some actual survey evidence. For example, here are answers to a Gallup poll question on whether trade is an \”opportunity\” or \”threat.\” The two answers were tied around 2012, but \”opportunity\” has surged ahead since then.  dipped a bit.

Or  here\’s survey evidence from the Pew Foundation on whether trade agreements have been good or bad for the US economy. \”Good\” is down a bit in the last couple of years, but still in the lead.

More detailed breakdowns of the survey data show that young people are more likely to favor free trade than older people. Cullen writes: \”In the main, younger voters are not clamoring for a
return to more protectionist policies. Indeed, most have never known a world without the World Trade Organization (WTO) and NAFTA; for younger voters, free trade and FTAs [free trade agreements] are the default state of affairs. Anti-FTA rhetoric hits home with people nearing retirement age, but not as much with older or younger Americans.\”

So why do politicians of all parties pushing for protectionism in 2016? There does seem to be a pattern that support for protectionism rises in election years. But in particular, protectionism tends to be more popular in the \”battleground\” states that decide national elections. Hendrix writes: \”In the 11 battleground states in the 2016 election (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin), the pattern is striking. In only one (Colorado, with 9 electoral votes) did the majority of respondents report that free trade had definitely or probably helped them or their families. In the remaining 10 (which together hold 137 electoral votes), the proportions agreeing with the statement ranged from 25 percent in Michigan
(where Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primary) to 27 percent in Ohio and 48 percent in Virginia.

In other words, if California and New York and Texas were the swing states, rather than being locked in for one party or another, politicians would be a lot less likely to talking up their skepticism about trade.

The other issue that Hendrix points out is that free-trade agreements have become vastly more complex, as they have less to do with just reducing tariffs and more to do with setting common standards for competition and regulation across industries. He notes: \”The text of the Israel-US Free Trade Agreement, which entered into effect in 1985, totals roughly 7,500 words. The text of the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership], inclusive of annexes and schedules, runs to roughly 2 million words—an astonishing 266 times longer. The TPP is not an isolated case: FTAs have grown longer and more complex over time, as they move beyond tariff barriers to touch on a host of regulatory issues related to market access, harmonization of standards, environmental issues, intellectual property, and health and safety.\”

This added complexity means that those who are just fundamentally opposed to trade can point to specific controversial provisions, and politicians can twist and dodge on the issue by saying that while they favor free trade in general, certain provisions of this particular agreement aren\’t acceptable.  Of course, in agreements between multiple nations that are several million words in length, there will always be controversial and just plain wrong-headed provisions.

Finally, Hendrix points out that the many European countries have embraced openness to international trade–for example, through the European Union–but have accompanied that embrace with generous programs for supporting displaced worker. Indeed, perhaps the defining characteristic of the what is sometimes called the \”Nordic model\” of the Scandinavian economies involves an embrace of free trade and market capitalism that is combined with high taxation and an active welfare state.

While I largely agree with Hendrix argument, I\’d add this point. Compared to a lot of countries around the world, US support for open international trade tends to be relatively low. I suspect that this situation arises because most other countries around the world have for a long time had much more exposure to international trade than does the US economy, which has an enormous internal market. Moreover, those who feel threatened by international trade tend to have much larger political megaphones than those who support it: indeed, free trade is a classic case of a situation with widespread but diffused benefits and more concentrated costs. During political campaigns, the US voices opposed to trade get louder and the defenders tend to duck their heads and wait for the wave to pass.

Early Childhood Education: Promises and Practicalities

Like many people, I find myself enormously attracted to the idea of early childhood education: that is, the idea that a well-chosen intervention aimed at small children could pay off over the longer term in improved academic performance and a reduced incidence of undesirable social behaviors like high school dropout rates, crime, or single teen mothers. But while the actual evidence on such programs offers some reason for encouragement, and certain provides a basis for additional experimentation, it\’s not as strong as I would like. The Fall 2016 issue of Future of Children has a 10-paper symposium, plus an overview essay, about the existing research on \”Starting Early: Education from Prekindergarten to Third Grade.\”

In the overview essay, \”Starting Early: Introducing the Issue,\” Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Lisa Markman-Pithers, and Cecilia Elena Rouse offer a fair-minded overview. They write: \”[W]e believe the weight of the evidence, as reflected in the articles in this issue, indicates that high-quality pre-K programs can indeed play an important role in improving later outcomes, particularly for children from more disadvantaged families. At the same time, significant questions remain.\”

Discussions of early childhood education often starts out with iconic programs like the Perry Preschool Program and the Abecedarian program. Both chose a group of children and provided services randomly to about half the group. Both had long-term follow-up into adulthood. Both found substantial gains in both academic and broader life outcomes. And frankly, I\’m  not sure that either one is especially relevant to the practical challenges and questions that early childhood education faces today.

The Perry Preschool Program in the Ypsilanti, Michigan, had a sample size of 123 students, of whom about half receiving services , from 1962-67. The Carolina Abecedarian program in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, inclueed 111 total students, of whom a randomly selected half received services.  beween 1972 and 1982. These are high quality studies, well-designed and with excellent follow-up. They were also done  four or five decades ago. The sample sizes were small. The assistance was intensive: for example the Perry Program included half-day day care and weekly home visits for 30 weeks per year, while the Abecedarian program was full-time day care for 50 weeks per year. The parents were quite disadvantaged in terms of being low income and low education (which in the mid-1960s in particular was before Medicaid and even widespread kindergarten). The alternative early enrichment options for children from disadvantaged families back at this time were much less available than in more recent years.

The practical difficulty is that extrapolating these kinds of small-scale pilot program with a few dozen students up to to a city-wide programs, much less up to statewide or national programs, is an enormous leap, and the results have not always been encouraging. For example, I wrote a few years back that \”Head Start is Failing Its Test\” (January 29, 2013). Starting in 2002, a nationally representative sample of 5,000 students was randomly assigned to Head Start, or not. The study found that academic effects of being assigned had faded out by third grade, and there were also no meaningful effects in \”cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices.\”

A more recent discouragement comes from a study in Tennessee, which Ron Haskins and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn discuss \”Trouble in the Land of Early Childhood Education?\” (Future of Children Policy Brief, Fall 2016).  They write; \”A recent evaluation has roiled the field of early childhood education with the finding that by the time they reached third grade, children who participated in Tennessee’s statewide pre-K program had worse attitudes toward school and poorer work habits than children who didn’t.\” Of course, when the Tennessee study showed positive results of pre-K in  kindergarten, it was hailed as a high-quality program and a well-designed study, but when it showed undesirable results by third grade, it was then criticized as a low-quality program and a poorly designed study.  But the

Other more recent studies in places like Tulsa, Oklahoma,  and Boston, Massachusetts, have found more positive results. In the overview essay in the Future of Children issue, here\’s how Brooks-Gunn, Markman-Pithers, and Rouse describe the overall evidence:

At the end of most evaluated [early childhood education] programs, researchers find effects on school achievement, though these effects diminish over elementary school. When program effects are large, they tend to be maintained into elementary school, though they are smaller than the initial impacts. At the same time, we see long-term effects on adult outcomes—for example, a reduction in crime or the completion of more schooling. It’s puzzling that during elementary school, the achievement-test scores of children who attended prekindergarten converge with the test scores of children who did not, a phenomenon commonly called fadeout. Studies document that those who participate in a pre-K program have a significant advantage in kindergarten in terms of educational achievement. But those assigned to the control group tend to catch up in the first through third grades; in most evaluations, more than half the difference between the two groups disappears by the end of first grade.

This conclusion is similar to that reached by Greg J. Duncan and Katherine Magnuson offer a broader and modestly more hopeful angle in their paper, \”Investing in Preschool Programs,\” in the Spring 2013 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. I offered some discussion of their findings
in \”Preschool for At-Risk Children, Yes; Universal Preschool, Maybe Not\” (May 23, 2013).

This kind of finding is why Brooks-Gunn, Markman-Pithers, and Rouse refer to significant questions that remain to be answered. Why do the academic effects of early childhood education so often fade out? Is it lack of lack of follow-up in schools? The importance of peer effects as student who received pre-K assistance are blended in later grades with those who do not? Maybe the pre-K programs themselves vary in some way? Maybe the benefits of such programs are non-cognitive–but noncognitive skills can be quite important. Here are some of their thoughts about ongoing issues.

Perhaps the problem is too much focus in pre-K programs on \”constrained\” skills, where \”constrained skills (such as phonemic awareness and letter knowledge) and unconstrained skills (such as knowledge of the world). Young children are typically taught constrained skills, which are associated with success until second or third grade. Beyond third grade, however, mastery of comprehension is associated much more with unconstrained skills.\”

Perhaps there should be more explicit emphasis on noncognitive skills like executive function: \”Executive function includes such abilities as attention, working memory, and inhibitory control— all of which are associated with cognitive and behavioral outcomes for both children and adults. Raver and Blair offer research to show that the development of executive function before children enter elementary school predicts their early math and reading skills. The authors also review promising individual and classroom interventions to improve executive function. Research on how to integrate the learning of memory, attention, and planning into the classroom is just beginning …\”

Perhaps some of the issue involves the qualifications and pay of pre-K teachers: \”The proportion of pre-K teachers who have a bachelor’s degree and certification for teaching early childhood education has increased over the past 15 years. Still, far fewer pre-K teachers than kindergarten teachers are college graduates, owing to differences in requirements. State and city pre-K programs usually require teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree, which has led to disparities between pre-K teachers in programs administered by public school systems and those in Head Start and community programs. Wage differentials are also high. Indeed, many pre-K teachers experience financial hardship and lack health insurance. …  Until we pay more attention to the links between training and classroom interactions, we can’t evaluate the efficacy of current training and education programs. The same is true for implementing curricula in the classroom.\”

Perhaps some of the issue is the extent to which parental involvement is encouraged: \”One of the goals of Head Start and other pre-K programs is to provide support, information, and even instruction to parents in the context of prekindergarten. In fact, being in favor of involving parents in their children’s pre-K programs seems much like supporting motherhood and apple pie. But even though everyone believes such involvement is necessary, we know little about whether it makes the programs more effective. In fact, Katherine Magnuson and Holly Schindler report that when parenting programs attached to pre-K programs have been evaluated, many have proven to be ineffective. But programs that target specific competencies are more likely to have benefits, especially those that help parents deal with their children’s behavior problems. Also, a few programs targeting mothers’ literacy and reading have been effective.\”

The  promise of early childhood education focused on the most disadvantaged children is real. There are dozens of studies that have found positive effects. But the practical problem of designing and implementing programs to work at larger scale are also very real. As Brooks-Gunn, Markman-Pithers, and Rouse note: \” We also need a better understanding of how to take high-quality programs to scale—the most relevant example being the rollout of city- and state-level pre-K programs.\”

Adam Smith\’s Watch-Making Example: Technological Progress Before the Industrial Revolution

The history of technological progress is sometimes told as \”nothing much worth mentioning until the Industrial Revolution.\” But writing in the years before 1776, Adam Smith would not have agreed. Although his example of the division of labor in the pin-making industry near the start of The Wealth of Nations gets more attention, and deservedly so, near the end of Book I of TWN there is also some discussion of of technological progress. In particular, Smith makes a strong claim that the real price of watches may have fallen by 95% during the previous century. In the November 2016 Quarterly Journal of Economics, Morgan Kelly and Cormac Ó Gráda build up data on the price of watches from 1685 to 1810 by using the reported value of stolen watches in criminal trials the Old Bailey in London during this time. Here, I\’ll first review Smith\’s comments, and then offer a brief overivew of the Kelly and Ó Gráda essay, \”Adam Smith, Watch Prices, and the Industrial Revolution,\” (131: 4, pp. 1727-1752). The QJE is not freely available online, but many readers will have access through library subscriptions. 

The relevant discussion from Adam Smith occurs at the tail end of Book 1, in Part III of Chapter 11. Here, I\’ll quote from the ever-useful version of The Wealth of Nations available online at Library of Economics and Liberty website. Smith doesn\’t use the modern terminology of \”productivity\” or \”technology,\” but phrases his argument in terms of \”the natural effect of improvement.\” He writes (paragraph 240 and following):

It is the natural effect of improvement, however, to diminish gradually the real price of almost all manufactures. That of the manufacturing workmanship diminishes, perhaps, in all of them without exception. In consequence of better machinery, of greater dexterity, and of a more proper division and distribution of work, all of which are the natural effects of improvement, a much smaller quantity of labour becomes requisite for executing any particular piece of work; and though, in consequence of the flourishing circumstances of the society, the real price of labour should rise very considerably, yet the great diminution of the quantity [of labor] will generally much more than compensate the greatest rise which can happen in the price. …

This diminution of price has, in the course of the present and preceding century, been most remarkable in those manufactures of which the materials are the coarser metals. A better movement of a watch, than about the middle of the last century could have been bought for twenty pounds, may now perhaps be had for twenty shillings. In the work of cutlers and locksmiths, in all the toys which are made of the coarser metals, and in all those goods which are commonly known by the name of Birmingham and Sheffield ware, there has been, during the same period, a very great reduction of price, though not altogether so great as in watch-work. It has, however, been sufficient to astonish the workmen of every other part of Europe, who in many cases acknowledge that they can produce no work of equal goodness for double, or even for triple the price. There are perhaps no manufactures in which the division of labour can be carried further, or in which the machinery employed admits of a greater variety of improvements, than those of which the materials are the coarser metals. …

Both in the coarse and in the fine woollen manufacture, the machinery employed was much more imperfect in those ancient, than it is in the present times. It has since received three very capital improvements, besides, probably, many smaller ones of which it may be difficult to ascertain either the number or the importance. The three capital improvements are: first, The exchange of the rock and spindle for the spinning-wheel, which, with the same quantity of labour, will perform more than double the quantity of work. Secondly, the use of several very ingenious machines which facilitate and abridge in a still greater proportion the winding of the worsted and woollen yarn, or the proper arrangement of the warp and woof before they are put into the loom; an operation which, previous to the invention of those machines, must have been extremely tedious and troublesome. Thirdly, The employment of the fulling mill for thickening the cloth, instead of treading it in water. Neither wind nor water mills of any kind were known in England so early as the beginning of the sixteenth century, nor, so far as I know, in any other part of Europe north of the Alps. They have been introduced into Italy some time before.

The consideration of these circumstances may, perhaps, in some measure explain to us why the real price both of the coarse and of the fine manufacture, was so much higher in those ancient, than it is in the present times.

 Was Adam Smith correct in his claim that about a dramatic fall in the price of watches due to improved productivity during the century before the Industrial Revolution took off? Kelly and Ó Gráda write (footnotes omitted):

\”Most recent studies of the Industrial Revolution focus on the sustained innovations in the three sectors of textile spinning, iron making, and steam power that began in Britain in the latter half of the eighteenth century. To one usually well-informed contemporary observer, things appeared quite different. Discussing technological progress in The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith (1976, p. 270) ignores most of the famous inventions in these sectors, and instead chooses a paradigm of technical progress one good that is entirely absent from most current histories of the Industrial Revolution: watches. In fact, Smith makes the notable claim that the price of watches may have fallen by up to 95% over the preceding century, a claim we attempt to evaluate here.

\”To test whether watch prices had been falling steadily and steeply since the late seventeenth century, we use the records of more than 3,200 criminal trials at the Old Bailey court in London from 1685 to 1810. Owners of stolen goods gave the value of the items they had lost. Because watches were frequently stolen, we can reliably track how their value changed through time. Contemporaries divided watches into two categories: utilitarian silver or metal watches and more expensive gold ones. After adjusting for inflation, the price of each type of watch falls steadily by 1.3% a year, equivalent to a fall of 75% over a century. If we assume modest rises in the quality in silver watches, so that a watch at the 75th percentile in the 1710s was equivalent to one of median quality in the 1770s, we find an annual fall in real prices of 2% or 87% over a century, not far from what Smith suggests.

\”Most of the cost of a silver watch mechanism was the labor involved in cutting, filing, and assembling the parts, so assuming a constant markup (which is probably valid given the small scale of individual producers and the absence of foreign import penetration before 1815) we can gauge the rise of labor productivity in watchmaking by comparing how the price of a watch fell relative to nominal wages. During the period 1680–1810, real wages were roughly constant, so this rise in labor productivity is similar to the fall in real prices of watches.\”

There is a lively body of economic research looking at economic history in the centuries before 1800, with a focus on processes of growth and change during that time. Finding data to test Smith\’s watch-making example is a vivid illustration. But those looking for bigger-picture discussions of economic movements might also check out these papers from the Journal of Economic Perspectives:

In \”Gifts of Mars: Warfare and Europe’sEarly Rise to Riches,\” Nico Voigtländer and Hans-Joachim Voth discuss what they call the \”First Divergence\” (Fall 2013, 27:4, pp. 165-186), a period from 1400 to 1700 in which the economies of western Europe surged ahead of the rest of the world. They write

\”[W]e argue that Europe’s rise to riches during the First Divergence in this paper, we argue that Europe’s rise to riches during the First Divergence was driven by the nature of its politics after 1350—it was a highly fragmented continent characterized by constant warfare and major religious strife. Our explanation emphasizes two crucial and inescapable consequences of political rivalry: war and death. No other continent in recorded history fought so frequently, for such nd death. No other continent in recorded history fought so frequently, for such long periods, killing such a high proportion of its population. When it comes to destroying human life, the atomic bomb and machine guns may be highly efficient, but nothing rivaled the impact of early modern Europe’s armies spreading hunger ut nothing rivaled the impact of early modern Europe’s armies spreading hunger and disease. …

War therefore helped Europe’s precocious rise to riches because the survivors had more land per head available for cultivation. We argue that the feedback loop from higher incomes to more war and higher land-labor ratios was set in motion by the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century. As surplus incomes over and above subsistence increased, tax revenues surged. These in turn financed near-constant wars on an unprecedented  scale. Wars raised mortality not primarily because of fi cale. Wars raised mortality not primarily because of fighting itself; instead, armies crossing the continent spread deadly diseases such as the plague, typhus, or small pox. The massive, continued destruction of human life that followed led to reduced population pressure. In our view, it was a prime determinant of Europe’s unusually high per capita incomes before the Industrial Revolution.\” 

In \”Seven Centuries of European Economic Growth and Decline,\” Roger Fouquet and Stephen Broadberry look at the body of ongoing research that has sought to build up annual data on output for countries of Europe starting around 1300 (Fall 2015, 29:4, pp. 227-244). They write:

\”The new data shows trends in GDP per capita in the key European economies before the Industrial Revolution, identifying episodes of economic growth in specific countries, often lasting for decades. Ultimately, these periods of growth were not sustained, but they noticeably raised GDP per capita. It also shows that many of these economies experienced periods of substantial economic decline. Thus, rather than being stagnant, pre-nineteenth century European economies experienced a great deal of change.\”

Should Museums Own Copyright on Photographs of Their Paintings?

Museums own paintings, but apparently, they don\’t own the copyright over photographing those paintings or making derivative works like posters of paintings. At least, that\’s the argument strongly made by Alain Marciano and Nathalie Moureau in their essay, \”Museums, Property Rights, and Photographs of Works of Art: Why Reproduction Through Photograph should be Free,\” which appears in the most recent issue of the Review of Economic Research on Copyright Issues (2016, 13:1, pp. 1-28). Here\’s an overview of their argument (footnotes and citations omitted):

\”[T]he law is generally unambiguous: the physical artwork must be distinguished from the image of this artwork, which means that owning the artwork does not imply owning the reproduction of the image of the artwork. … The property right on a work of art must be distinguished from the intellectual property right. The property right bears on the object itself but is dominated — most of the time — by the intellectual property right when conflicts take place. Indeed, having a property right on the work of art itself does not mean having intellectual property right over the artwork. …

\”Actually, the intellectual property stays with the artist whilst he or she is alive and moves to his or her heirs for the next 70 years after the artist’s death. From the moment the work of art has been produced right up to 70 years after the death of the artist, the intellectual property right and the right of copy and reproduction belong to the artist or his or her heirs and not to the owner of the work. Indeed, the latter does not have the right to reproduce, sell or, even simply distribute copies, unless the artist him- or herself decides to transfer the copyright to the owner through a contract. After the 70-year period, the work of art falls into the public domain, which means, as it is well known, that its reproduction is free and that every individual has or should have the right to photograph, reproduce, copy and distribute the copies of the work of art. Furthermore, because first-generation copies of works of art are not considered as works of art, they cannot, therefore, be protected by a copyright. Thus, as the owner of a work of art, museums fall into one of the two categories: either they own a painting protected by an intellectual property right or the painting is in the public domain, and in both cases, museums do not have the right to prevent individuals from photographing the work. These are the only possibilities. 

\”However, museums do not always follow these requirements … Indeed, and this started to occur in the 1990s, museums are now not only almost systematically preventing visitors from taking pictures and using them, but also request very high fees for taking professional pictures. They systematically oblige photographers who want to take a picture to fill out forms and to follow long and complicated procedures before granting the authorisation to photograph the works of art that are in their collections. This means that museums transpose their property right into an intellectual property right and a right of reproduction that they do not own and cannot have. … In addition, museums also place a copyright on the first generation copies of the works of art they own. More broadly, museums also market derivative products under a copyright label, even if these products involve old master reproductions whose legal protection ended many years previously. As mentioned above, this is also illegal — a copy made of an image cannot be restricted in any way by the owner of the artwork.\”

This issue has grown in prominence because many cash-strapped museums are relying on sales of derivative products as part of their annual revenue flow. Indeed, this isn\’t currently the law, but one could make an argument that museums should have copyright over images of their artwork, even artwork that is in the public domain, because it\’s a way that society can help art-lovers to subsidize museums. Marciano and Moreau argue that such a policy of giving museums the copyright over images of their art (unless this explicitly negotiated with the artist) would not be appropriate, for several reasons.

They argue that the net revenue to museums from sales of reproductions, after the costs of making and selling the copies is taken into account, is not very large. They point out that there is a trade-off for the broader mission of museums: many museums are limiting the availability of images from paintings in the name of promoting a public appreciation of art. One might want to ban flash photography, although the authors argue that the dangers of flash photography for art are often highly overstated, but such a rule would be quite different from banning all photography. Sure, some lousy photographs might get made, and even sold, but copyright law does not exist to assure quality copying. Indeed, one can argue that if the market for making photographs of paintings was more competitive, then museums would have improved incentives to take advantage of their proximity to the art to take especially high-quality photographs.

Nothing in this argument would limit artists from continuing to own the intellectual property related to their artwork, whether it is held in a museum or not, as the artists do under current law.

Is the Mediterranean the New Rio Grande?

Migration across national borders might sometimes seem like water behind a dam–a pent-up force waiting to break loose unless restrained by a physical or legal wall. But look a little closer, and episodes of large-scale migration are often driven by fundamental factors like differences in birthrates and economic prospects, as well as by past historical and political ties. Gordon Hanson and Craig McIntosh make this point in their essay \”Is the Mediterranean the New Rio Grande? US and EU Immigration Pressures in the Long Run,\” which appears in the just-published Fall 2016 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives.  

As the title implies, Hanson and McIntosh argue that the underlying forces that led to an historically large surge of migration from Mexico to the US in the 1980s and 1990s are likely to lead to migration from the Middle East and Africa to Europe in the decades ahead. To put it another way, US political attitudes about immigration often seem to be about reacting to the immigration surge that already happened in the 1980s and 1990s, not to the likely levels of immigration in the years ahead. However, Europe\’s issues with immigration are not just about short-term resettlement of war-displaced persons, but are likely to be ongoing for decades. They begin their essay this way (citations omitted): 

\”The tens of thousands of migrants streaming into Europe during late 2015 and early 2016 created an indelible image of how humanitarian crises—in this case associated with the Syrian civil war—propel international migration. Although political instability in the Levant may have kicked migration to Europe into a higher gear, immigration flows to the continent in the medium- and long-run are likely to be sustained by sharp differentials in labor-supply growth between regions to the north and to the south of the Mediterranean Sea. The present European migration scene is the latest act in a long-running global drama in which cross-country differences in population growth, abetted by disparities in aggregate labor productivity, create pressures for international migration. Periodically, economic or political crises unleash these pressures and generate sustained flows. 

\”During the last quarter of the 20th century, the principal actors in this global drama were Mexico and the United States. The US baby boom came to an abrupt halt in the early 1960s, causing growth in native-born labor supply to slow sharply two decades hence, once the baby-boom generation had fully reached working age. In Mexico, birth rates declined much later. High fertility in the 1960s—when Mexico’s fertility rate (the number of births per woman of childbearing age) averaged 6.8, versus 3.0 in the United States—meant that Mexico’s labor force was expanding rapidly in the early 1980s, just as a severe financial crisis hit. This crisis, and the decade and a half of economic instability that ensued, unleashed a great wave of Mexican migration to the United States. Encouraging this flow was steady US economic growth during the “Great Moderation” period from the mid-1980s up through 2007. In a pattern common to migration events stretching back into human history, early migrants eased the transition for later arrivals by offering advice on how to find jobs and housing, opening familiar stores and restaurants, and creating enclaves in which Spanish was spoken alongside English. 

\”The Mexican migration wave to the United States has now crested. Fertility rates in Mexico, at 2.3 births per woman of childbearing age, are only modestly above those in the United States, at 1.9. Labor-supply growth in the two countries is projected to be roughly the same in coming decades. Although living standards in Mexico remain well below US levels, Mexico has tamed the macroeconomic volatility it experienced during the 1980s and 1990s. Net US immigration from Mexico plunged after the onset of the Great Recession in 2007 and has been slightly negative every year since. Absent a significant new economic or political crisis in Mexico, or unexpectedly robust US economic growth, it is unlikely that Mexico-to-US migration rates will again reach the levels witnessed between the early 1980s and the mid-2000s. 

\”The European immigration context today looks much like the United States did three decades ago. In Europe, which long ago made its demographic transition to low birth rates, declines in fertility in the 1970s and 1980s set the stage for a situation in which the number of working-age residents is in absolute decline. Countries in the North Africa and Middle East region, in contrast, have had continued high fertility, creating bulging populations of young people looking for gainful employment in labor markets plagued by low wages and the scarcity of steady work. Further to the south, population growth rates in sub-Saharan Africa, a region with still lower relative earnings, remain among the highest in the world. Many countries in North Africa and the Middle East are in a period of profound political and economic upheaval. Migrants escaping military conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria are crossing the Straits of Gibraltar, the land and sea borders that divide Turkey and Greece, and the narrow Mediterranean passage that separates northern Libya and southern Italy. Further to the south, conflicts in Chad, Eritrea, Mali, and Nigeria are also generating labor outflows. These new triggers are being tripped in a demographic environment that is ideal for perpetuating emigration well into the future. As further motivation, established populations of Algerians in France, Moroccans in Spain, the Turkish in Germany, and sub-Saharan Africans in Italy may offer support and solace to the new arrivals as they settle in.\”

In the context of the wave of migration from Mexico to the US, the authors emphasize that there were economic discrepancies for a long time between the two countries. However, it wasn\’t until the great divergence in birthrates and Mexico\’s economic crash in the 1980s that the historically large wave of migration actually arrived. They write: 

\”Motive and opportunity, however, are far from sufficient conditions for migration to occur. The United States and Mexico, which share a 2,000-mile land border, have long had widely divergent incomes. In 1960, per capita GDP (PPP adjusted) in the United States was triple that in Mexico, a ratio that remained essentially unchanged during the following two decades—yet there was only a modest migration response. As a share of Mexico’s national population, the number of the Mexicans living in the United States stood at 1.5 percent in 1960 and 3.2 percent 20 years later. In 1980, immigrants from Mexico accounted for just 1.0 percent of the US population. What sparked substantial labor flows from Mexico to the United States was the onset of the Mexican debt crisis of the 1980s and the “lost decade” of economic stagnation that followed. Between 1982 and 2000, the ratio of US-to-Mexico per capita GDP rose by over one-and-a-half times, from 2.3 to 3.8. … 

\”Equally impressive is that a single source country, Mexico, accounts for just under one-third of US working-age immigrants. The 10.2 million individuals born in Mexico and living in the United States accounted for fully 13.0 percent of all immigrants living in an OECD country in 2010. Remarkably for a country as large as Mexico, these immigrants were equal in number to 13.5 percent of Mexico’s working-age population. Indeed, the Mexico-to-US migrant flow is one of the largest international migration episodes that the world has seen.\” 

Hanson and McIntosh argue that the differences in birthrates and economic prospects, along with existing historical and political ties, point toward the possibility of an ongoing and very large surge in migration from the Middle East and Africa to Europe in the decades ahead. Indeed, my guess is that their estimates could turn out to understate the pressures for migration to Europe. Access to information about how and when to migrate, and the ability to send money to others back in the source country, have dramatically increased. And while population growth rates have slowed in much of the world, the exceptions are mostly in Africa and the Middle East. Hanson and McIntosh recognize the point, and write: 

\”As an example, we predict the number of African-born first-generation migrants aged 15 to 64 outside of sub-Saharan Africa to grow from 4.6 million to 13.4 million between 2010 and 2050. During this same period, the number of working-age adults born in the region will expand from under half a billion to more than 1.3 billion, meaning that international migration would only absorb 1 percent of the overall population growth. Given an African continent expected to contain almost four billion people by 2100, the presence or absence of a migration safety valve would have profound implications. The coming half century will see absolute population growth in sub-Saharan Africa five times as large as Latin America’s growth over the past half century. Even with our predictions for expanded population pressures to certain countries of Europe, which are likely to be perceived as very high levels of immigration by those countries, Europe would be absorbing only a small share of Africa’s projected population increase.\” 

(Full disclosure: I\’ve been Managing Editor of JEP since its first issue in 1987. All issues of the journal back to the first one are freely available online compliments of the publisher, the American Economic Association.)