Leveraging the Global Talent Pool to Jumpstart Prosperity in Emerging Economies
TWCF Number
Project Duration
March 1 / 2023
- February 28 / 2025
Core Funding Area
Individual Freedom and Free Markets
North America
Amount Awarded

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Ricardo Hausmann
Institution President and Fellows of Harvard College

A key to economic prosperity is the adoption of technology, but technological diffusion is often tied to the know-how of people that develop and use technology. The most effective way to diffuse technology is to enable people with talent and know-how to freely move across borders, and freely choose the places where they can be most productive. The cross-border mobility of talent, as well as their economic integration, is often highly regulated and restricted. In countries such as Mexico, Panama, Colombia, South Africa, Namibia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, and Sri Lanka, migration and integration restrictions may be severe and economically binding. They may be economically binding because these economies suffer from a bigger technological gap and stand to benefit more from accessing the kind of knowhow that would enable the adoption of technologies. Intriguingly, their restrictions are often biased against high-skilled individuals, limiting the movement of entrepreneurs, professionals, scientists, and inventors. Because most emerging economies are less attractive as destinations per se, such barriers may have a larger dissuasive effect on the attraction of global talent.

The objective of a new project led by Ricardo Hausmann at Harvard Kennedy School is to create a novel dataset with measures of de facto restrictiveness along several dimensions of migrants’ economic participation: labor force participation, unemployment, formalization, occupation, entrepreneurship, innovation, and scientific achievement. For this, the team will use internationally comparable individual-level data on migration for over 50 destination countries and a global coverage of the countries of origin. Employing state-of-the-art econometric identification strategies, the team aims to identify the cross-country variance in migration and the economic integration of migrant talent that has to do with codified and implicit practices at the borders and the labor markets of hosting countries.

If successful, the project will provide a validated, publicly accessible, international dataset of de facto measures of restrictiveness, and estimates of the impact de facto restrictiveness has on national economic performance and the economic outcomes for natives. It will allow for a comparison between de jure and de facto restrictiveness to migration, which can help diagnose policy areas that could be adjusted to improve countries’ abilities to attract and integrate talent.

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