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International Migration in the Age of Globalization: Historical and Recent Experiences.

Author(s):Solimano, Andrés
Reviewer(s):Cohn, Raymond

Published by EH.NET (December 2010)

Andr?s Solimano, International Migration in the Age of Globalization: Historical and Recent Experiences. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. xv + 223 pp. $27 (paperback), ISBN: 978-0-521-14248-9.

Reviewed for EH.Net by Raymond Cohn, Department of Economics, Illinois State University.

Few readers of this review will find Solimano?s book very worthwhile. Though the book is interesting and generally well done, the focus is on current immigration issues. Historical immigration — at least that before World War II — plays only a minor role. Even here, none of the material is new; instead, Solimano primarily discusses the findings of Jeff Williamson and his coauthors (mainly Hatton and Williamson, 1998 and 2005). Economic historians (or others) who read this book should do so only if they have an interest in current immigration. If that is the case, Solimano?s book is worth reading.

The book contains seven chapters, the first of which is an introduction and the last of which is a conclusion. Chapters 2 and 3 discuss, respectively, the reasons for and the effects of international migration. For anyone who has studied these issues, Solimano has little new to add. For someone who wants an introduction to the basics of international migration, these two chapters would be a good place to begin since the author?s writing is clear and the discussion is well-organized. Chapter 4 takes the theoretical material of the previous chapters and applies it to international migration since 1870, with most of the discussion centering on the 1870-1914 period. His main conclusion is that the ease of movement for people and financial capital are positively correlated throughout history. Chapter 5 takes a similar approach but discusses international migration to and from Latin America, mainly since World War II. Knowing relatively little about this area, I found chapter 5 of particular interest given the variety of situations faced by the different countries. Chapter 6 discusses the current international migration of ?elites,? and looks at the benefits and costs of these. In none of these chapters is the level of rigor very high. The book primarily explains and discusses the various issues with relatively little analysis.

In a few places, the author argues there should be a new international agency to handle migration issues. The IMF and World Bank are involved with the international flow of capital funds, and the World Trade Organization handles the international trade in goods, services, and natural resources. Human beings are the other item that moves internationally. The International Organization for Migration, which arose out of refugee issues after World War II, currently deals with some migration issues. For reasons that are never made clear, however, Solimano believes there is a need for a new agency. My guess is that Solimano feels the current organization is not as prestigious as the IMF, World Bank, and WTO, whereas a new organization would raise international migration issues to a higher level. The author proposes this new organization as a main idea of the book. However, most of the material presented simply surveys current migration issues and no extensive argument is presented that would convince an interested reader that a new organization is required. In addition, no discussion is included analyzing why the International Organization for Migration couldn?t play the role envisioned by Solimano.
Two other places where the book could have been improved also deserve mention. The first is that some of his analysis is incomplete. For example, Solimano states that the current migration of health professionals out of less-developed countries to higher-income ones is detrimental to the former. I suppose that is true at a static level. However, he implicitly assumes that, if this type of migration was not possible, then all the existing health professionals would work at home and raise the level of health care. Given the depressing effects on income of such a restriction, however, many would probably go into other careers — and, over time, the incentives to gather medical skills would decline in these countries. Second, though Solimano includes the findings of some economic historians, other relevant sources are missing. When he discusses the growing importance of female migration (p. 131), he does not mention the work of Gabaccia (1996). In discussing the changes in sources and locations for migration before 1914 (chapter 3), Solimano does not reference the work of Nugent (1992). Finally, no historical sources are included in his discussion of the connection between immigration and economic growth (pp. 59-60).

At its core, this book discusses current public policy. Given the author?s background, that focus is not surprising. Solimano is currently President (and founder) of the International Center for Globalization and Development in Santiago, Chile. He previously worked for the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. This background has led Solimano to produce an interesting book that discusses the important issue of international migration but, unfortunately, not one that will be of much interest to economic historians. Instead, the book?s intended audiences are governmental and non-governmental actors along with ?intelligent laymen? interested in migration issues.

Gabaccia, Donna (1996), ?Women of the Mass Migrations: From Minority to Majority, 1820-1930,? in Dirk Hoerder and Leslie Moch, eds., European Migrants: Global and Local Perspectives. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

Hatton, Timothy J., and Jeffrey G. Williamson (1998), The Age of Mass Migration: Causes and Economic Impact. Oxford University Press.

Hatton, Timothy J., and Jeffrey G. Williamson (2005), Global Migration and the World Economy: Two Centuries of Policy and Performance. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Nugent, Walter (1992), Crossings: The Great Transatlantic Migrations, 1870-1914. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Raymond Cohn is Professor of Economics, Emeritus, Illinois State University. He is the author of Mass Migration under Sail: European Immigration to the Antebellum United States, published in 2009 by Cambridge University Press.

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Subject(s):Historical Demography, including Migration
Geographic Area(s):General, International, or Comparative
North America
Time Period(s):19th Century
20th Century: Pre WWII
20th Century: WWII and post-WWII