What’s the most effective development intervention we know?

Picking kiwis?

From David McKenzie at the World Bank finance blog, the per capita income gain from 6 kinds of interventions:

The paper is here. Quibble with the numbers as much as you like, these are massive differences.

After learning that Intel’s co-founder was a refugee resettled in the US by IRC, I have begun to wonder: if 0.005% of refugees and immigrants transform the US economy, is the annual gain from immigration to current citizens of the US equally large?

See also Ryan Pevnick on the ethics of immigration policy.

8 thoughts on “What’s the most effective development intervention we know?

  1. Absolutely.

    Yet the development community stays almost silent on this. I wrote the other day (http://www.owen.org/blog/4220) about how the UK has changed immigration policy in a way that almost certainly damages development, but there has been no discussion at all about the effect on poverty.


  2. I’m not sure how I feel about this discourse that wants to reframe the removal of legal barriers for extraordinarily courageous people to move to foreign alien environments where the customs are weird and the food is strange and the language is impenetrable into a “development intervention.”

    Handing your wallet to the guy with the knife at your throat is probably a very effective intervention to reduce the risk of bodily-injury-related assault. But I don’t see that as an “anti-injury intervention.”

  3. Agreed, liberalizing labor markets so workers can move around the globe as freely as capital can, would do wonders both for the development (the poor) and also for the global economy… But it is wishful thinking, politically speaking.

  4. Perhaps I’m just echoing Amar above… but how is “seasonal migration” an intervention?

  5. Ben, the intervention is for a Government to set in place a program of legalized seasonal migration, and the impacts shown in the figure are the development impacts of participating in this program.
    Launching and catalyzing such a new labor market and facilitating the job matching is the intervention. See
    for more details on the role of Government in this.

  6. But wait, isn’t seasonal migration just a band-aid solution? It does not often lead to sustainable development and increased economic opportunities within the origin communities themselves, but instead leads to an over-reliance on those who leave without stimulating much in the towns themselves—not to mention fractured families and households. What do you think?

  7. Jose, I’m sure Michael Clemens will jump in on this because along with Lant Pritchett he has for several years been eloquently and persuasively making the case that development is about people, not places – just as it is surely more cost-effective to help people in rural towns in the U.S. equip themselves to work in cities than to try and develop those towns, it is likewise likely better for development of Tongans (population 100,000) to let them access the better opportunities abroad than to try and develop large industries in such a small place.
    And then of course since this is a seasonal migration program with people returning with incomes earned abroad, you are indeed also getting increased schooling, more home improvements, etc. in the home country as well.

  8. I will never understand why some people insist on capitalizing the word government as if it were a proper noun. Methinks it has something to do with the way divine objects are capitalized (O God, Thy Name etc etc), which seems rather sinister when applied here. It has enough power already without people also attributing to it some magical quality.