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on 19 March 2017
This is a study by an economist, but written to be accessible to non-economists, of the effects of large-scale immigration into the UK. Paul Collier, grandson of a German immigrant (the family name was originally Hellenschmidt), without being emotionally cold, applies dispassionate logic to a subject on which there is often much passion but too little objectivity.

On most important issues, most people accept there could be points for and against, winners and losers, and consequently a range of reasonable opinions. Immigration to the UK, on the other hand, is often discussed as though there are only 2 possible views, and often that only 1 of these is legitimate, either:

‘Immigration is A GOOD THING and if you say otherwise you’re RACIST and DEMONISING immigrants!’


‘Immigration is OUT OF CONTROL and if you say otherwise you’re PART OF THE OUT OF TOUCH LIBERAL ELITE!’

Only in this polarised, emotive context could the frequently expressed (usually in a self-righteous tone of voice) "My [parent / friend/ domestic help] is an immigrant and they are a fine person!” pass as a proper argument for mass immigration.

Collier, as an economist, requires aggregates and averages to justify a policy, not just anecdotes. He illustrates theories with simple graphs. However, if you are not mathematical, do not fear; there are no difficult sums.

The author spent much of his career studying poverty in the Third World (‘The Bottom Billion’) and his own politics are probably liberal on many issues. However, when evidence justifies, he is willing to reach conclusions some liberals will not like.

E.g. we are often told that immigration is 'A GOOD THING' because migrant trained nurses, engineers, etc.bring useful skills to the UK. However, there has been too little consideration of the cost to the (often poorer) countries they leave of losing trained professionals. There has also been no study of whether the fact it is quicker and cheaper to recruit immigrants already been trained at some other country's expense means that British employers put less time and money into training British workers. Do academics avoid researching this for fear that, in the mainly liberal/left world of academic social science departments, questioning any part of the case for immigration risks unpopularity and career-blighting accusations of racism?

Collier believes diversity and multiculturalism can have benefits but such claims should be tested for evidence and logic. E.g. thousands of immigrants come here precisely because diversity and multiculturalism did not work in their home countries, which they flee to escape ethnic or religious conflicts.

The author believes other academics' published research shows immigration has made the majority of people in Britain slightly more prosperous, but the poorest poorer. Businesses and wealthier households gain because immigrants from the Third World are glad to be able to work for anything above Third World wages,thus helping to keep down the cost of services, while British-born workers who compete more directly with immigrants for jobs and housing find it forces their wages down and their rents up.

The author says that, overall, research shows that for most people the economic benefits or dis-benefits are quite small; the largest long-term economic effect is that land becomes more expensive. [I suspect even this overstates the case for immigration. Academic researchers probably consciously or unconsciously tend to pose questions and interpret ambiguous data in ways that do not upset liberal ‘group think’.]

By applying the disciplined logic of economics to such questions, Paul Collier has produced a useful compliment to the non-economist Ed West’s brilliant book ‘The Diversity Illusion’, which I recommend even more strongly.

Note: First or second generation immigrants often feel that questioning the value of immigration in some way questions the value of them or their families. If anyone reading this feels that way, there is no need to do so. In an honest and sensible debate there ought to be a range of opinions that people may reasonably hold. It ought, say, to be a legitimate point of view to want immigration of thousands but not of millions. It ought to be possible to be grateful that a nice Indian-born doctor treated mother’s heart problem, yet still concerned that our National Health Service as a whole relies too much on recruiting staff from abroad and not enough on training and retaining its own.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 February 2014
This is a well reasoned exploration of the intentions of immigration and immigration policy and of some of the unintended consequences of the decisions taken by governments and indeed by migrants and their families.

Looking at the effects of immigration on host populations, for migrants, and for those left behind, the author, Paul Collier, has succeeded in providing a very readable account which stays away from the extremes of liberal or conservative mind sets, and provides good evidence throughout to substantiate his arguments.

Supplemented and illuminated by easy to follow graphs, this is a book to make you think, and to challenge some of the packages of beliefs held by many of us on this emotive issue.

It certainly made me challenge some of my assumptions about the ethics and effects of immigration, and to reconsider some of what I had previously held to be self evident truths, and to remember that the goldilocks principle of moderation really does apply to most things.

Very interesting and thought provoking
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on 17 November 2015
Great read
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 August 2015
As books in this general go, this is a balanced, sober and intelligent examination of what is a highly controversial and ethically difficult area. Movements of populations have ever been a feature of human social relations. Sometimes such movements are forced by persecution, deprivation, war or by the willingness to exploit opportunities that might lie elsewhere. Wherever the reason for human movement within countries or beyond borders, there are often significant impacts (admirably both positive and negative) on migrant populations and those who eventually play host to them. Trying to formulate government and international policy on immigration requires trying to disentangle the relative merits and demerits of allowing various levels of immigration (and from which destinations and labour categories) is difficult. But none of the foregoing is news.

The premise behind Colliers book unsurprisingly is the age old economists focus on the margin. Immigration he claims is neither good or bad in itself. It is simply an activity arising from possible need,policy or expediency in the host country and sufficient need or ambition shown by the migrant population. What is important is the extent of the population shift,the time frame over which it happens and the extent to which it can be 'absorbed' by the host country. Controlling the flow of immigration rather than the extent of immigration is the core idea of this book. This is a significant because if immigration is a natural part of human life and will occur either with the sanction of sovereign states or not, management is key.

There are several observations that that this book suggests that make it a worthwhile read. Firstly, that there is relatively little reliable data and research on the effects of immigration both on those countries importing populations and those exporting them. Secondly, that a straight estimation of costs and benefits as expressed in money terms is not a sufficient metric by itself. We might see that an influx of skilled labour into the UK might cause prices of particular services to fall, productivity and output to rise. In addition the effect on welfare services and education could also be costed. What is important though is who wins ( consumers / businesses who buy in such labour) and who loses ( taxpayer, existing users and providers of overstretched welfare and education and possibly local communities who might feel that they are being 'squeezed out' by the new 'alien' arrivals). The political debate then is between the economic and social liberals who tend to overestimate the benefits and ethical imperatives of immigration and undervalue the costs of such societal transitions ( possibly because they do not have to suffer its consequences) and those less convinced citizens who see the issue relating as much to a sense of national and individual identity as much as jobs and pay. Collier makes his most important contribution by recognising that immigration is a global problem / opportunity. For countries that shed people, they gain particularly from significant inward capital flows from remittances but lose from depleted skill and entrepreneurial resources. Recipient nations may make gains, but this depends very much on the profile of the immigrant population being accommodated and their willingness to be absorbed into the existing national ethos and community.

'Exodus' is a good place to start for a sensible discussion of immigration. It frustrates because instead of simply lining up the arguments for/ against like so many ducks in a row, more space could have been devoted to policy prescriptions. For a start, what can be done when a regional issue (currently Libya?) creates a sudden surge in population movements? This is a distinctly different problem the from more regular 'legally' managed regular economic labour movement (contract labour/ guest workers) and social integration (allowing relatives to enter a country). I think that Collier should have focused on two notions - that poor countries are frequently very poorly and corruptly run. Poor government causes in part the motivation for People to uproot themselves. Institutions like the IMF, World Bank and the United Nations should focus much more on providing expertise and leverage to effect change in those nations that need it most. Former colonial overlords such the UK, France and Belgium surely have a moral duty not just to intervene in regional conflicts but also in providing support in trying to build competences in administration,judiciary and legislative processes. This is the work of generations but worthwhile. The author could and should have focused more on encouraging global trade. Allowing poorer nations to trade their way to prosperity and so become less dependent on aid and remittances will be a hugely important stepping stone to building global prosperity and reducing the deleterious effects of 'excessive' immigration. This means organisations like the EU have to find a way to pacify particular producer groups ( the agr -industry?) and allow poorer nations more market access. If the EU for instance wants to reduce forced economic immigration, it has to start looking at promoting (in a collaborative and sensitive fashion) more assiduously the welfare of citizens and states that frequently export more labour then is good for them.

'Exodus' scores highly because it is readable, jargon is explained with clarity and although for some readers it may focus too much on the monetised costs / benefits of immigration and fails to address the social and political objections to free labour movement ( are all immigration sceptics all 'nutters' and racists?), it is even in tone. It would useful and lead to a greater understanding in this area, if commentators remembered that immigrants and their receiving populations are human beings. Collier, whatever the possible shortcomings in his book manages to balance economic analysis with a feel for his fellow humans.Recommended.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 May 2016
To say that there is a debate on immigration in this country is somewhat misleading. There is no real debate, just a shouting match. So it is refreshing to read a book that offers an insightful and thoughtful take on the subject.

True, it is not a debate about immigration to Britain per se but most of the issues are pertinent. In summary, Collier examines the effects of immigration on host societies and the immigrants themselves. For the host societies, he finds that the downward effect on natives’ wages is much exaggerated – in fact, there is a slight gain. But that is not an argument for unfettered immigration. The simple laws of economics dictate that an increased labour supply would drive down wages, were it not to be checked. Indeed, he finds an effect on wages is on immigrants themselves – excessive immigration drives down their wages.

As for the home societies, the brain drain effect is much exaggerated. Migration may well stimulate education provision because acquiring it makes the migrant more employable. Countries like China benefit as migrants get their education in the West and then return home, to the benefit of their home country. But, if they don’t come home, then there is a brain drain, as in places like Haiti, which retards the country’s development.

Migrants send back remittances. The sums are impressive but the effects are mixed. Remittances, like aid, can be frittered away in consumption rather than investment. As well as that, remittances are sent to families. But, if migrants bring families over, then remittances fall off, as do any benefits they brought. There is some evidence that migrants’ exposure to good governance norms in host countries stimulates demand back home for better governance but the picture here is mixed.

Collier is an economist but doesn’t confine the analysis to whether the right level of immigration can be settled simply by tallying up monetary costs and benefits. He uses evidence from political scientists, sociologists and social psychologists to offer a more rounded discussion of the impact of immigration He finds some evidence that the development of unassimilated diasporas reduces trust and increases divisions in host societies. This is a provocative observation but the evidence he provides has been compiled by Robert Putnam, a liberal political scientist in the United States. Provocative too is his observation that migrants are making a vote of no-confidence in their home social model and voting for the model of the country they migrate to.

This book has made me rethink my own stance on immigration (broadly in support). While I would never vote UKIP because I reject its messianic premise that all our problems would be solved if we pulled out of EU and stopped foreigners coming in, I believe that the concerns of indigenous inhabitants (including settled and integrated migrates) are not getting such a fair hearing.

The pro-immigration lobby disparage the idea of the nation-state. Terms like invented communities are bandied about which implies that such constructions are fake. But nation states are not fakes anymore than the Women’s Institute is fake. Each is an association. Each exists to provide collective goods and to promote cooperation. Each exists through actions, not words and each have a set of rules which it members expect outsiders, wanting to join their association, to respect as a condition for joining. There is nothing unreasonable in that.

In sum, the door should be left ajar, not slammed shut or left wide open.The question is not whether migration is good or bad – it is going to happen, like it or not – but whether policy to deal with it is good or bad. Bad ways to deal with it include denying the facts of the cultural difference. There is nothing unreasonable in any of that. I have read Collier's critics on that point about cultural difference – namely, the pieces on the The Case for Open Borders website – but none really seem to engage with the central contentions of his argument. There is no doubt much in this book over which reasonable people can disagree but it seems to me it is good starting place to begin a sensible discussion.
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on 4 January 2014
In a debate that is unhelpfully shrill and ideological on both sides, Collier takes a refreshingly cear-headed and objective path, walking his reader through the theory and empirical evidence to arrive at a few broad conclusions. In short, while immigration from the very poor, dysfunctional countries of the Bottom Billion to rich, successful countries is a huge economic boon for the migrants themselves and modestly beneficial to the receiving societies and economies too, the social and political costs are getting higher and higher as diaspora communities get larger and larger, and popular hostility among the indigenous population grows, jeopardising the high levels of mutual social trust and regard that made the complex cooperationn systems that advanced countries have put in place over time possible. Collier also looks at the cost to the countries of origin, who are losing many of their most qualified, enterprising and productive citizens.

The ideology of "Multiculturalism", which encourages migrants to keep their own cultures instead of assimilating to the host country's, exacerbates problems since it delays the assimilation process necessary to ensure their integration into the economy and society and undermines the high levels of mutual acceptance and trust welfare states require. He also questions the wisdom of encouraging migrants to hold on to social models that are in large part responsible for the dysfunctional societies they fled in the first place.

Given that on current trends and with the current policies in place, this migration is only going to accelerate in the years to come, Collier makes a convincing case that the flows have to be more tightly regulated in Europe than is the case today if we are to preserve our welfare states and ensure the acceptance, integration and success of the migrants already here.
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on 27 June 2015
Whatever side of the immigration debate you favour, you should read this book. Firmly based on academic research (as one would expect from an Oxford University professor) and drawing on many disciplines (history, psychology, economics etc), the book rebuts most of the assumptions made by the pro and anti lobbies. Did you know that the income of the indigenous unskilled working class have only marginally been affected by the arrival of an unprecedented number of immigrants to the UK in recent years? (UKIP please note). Were you aware that large scale immigration has had hardly any effect on economic growth? (CBI, IoD and politicians of all the main parties also please note).

Collier's prose is very readable. He backs up his contentions with facts, not assumptions and indicates where further research is needed. Constantly warning against our innate prejudices (calling on the work of Daniel Kahnemann and Jonathan Haidt amongst many others), he is very clear about the need for objectivity (and humanity) in approaching the subject. Unusually, he looks at the effect of immigration not only on the "host" countries, but on the immigrants themselves and on the countries they leave. The aspect I found of most interest was the consequences of immigration on the "social capital" of the receiving countries - and he draws some worrying conclusions about it.
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on 7 January 2014
Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University. In this important book, he asks, how much migration is best for Britain?

There were 92 million immigrants in 1960, 165 million in 2000. Migration from the rich world to the poor world fell, as did migration from Europe to the USA. The big change was migration from the poor world to the rich - from under 20 million to more than 60 million. The increase accelerated decade by decade.

He notes that immigration's "social effects are usually likely to trump economic effects, in part because the economic effects are usually modest. For the neediest sections among the indigenous population the net effects of migration are often probably negative."

As he points out, "What is good for business is not necessarily good for indigenous people. The short-term interest of business is for the open door: it is cheaper to recruit already-skilled migrants than to train indigenous youth, and the pool of talent will be wider when the door is more open. It is in the interest of the indigenous population to force firms that want to benefit from the country's social model to train its youth and hire its workers. Germany stands as testimony that such a policy need not drive business abroad."

Collier states, "migration can be excessive. I show that, left to itself, migration will keep accelerating, so that it is liable to become excessive."

He explains, "left to the decentralized decisions of potential migrants, migration accelerates until low-income countries are substantially depopulated. The acceleration principle follows from two indisputable features of migration. One is that for a given income gap, the larger is the diaspora, the easier and hence more rapid is migration. ... The other indisputable feature is that migration has only small, and indeed ambiguous, feedback effects on the income gap."

He warns, "without effective controls migration would rapidly accelerate to the point at which additional migration would have adverse effects, both on the indigenous populations of host societies and on those left behind in the poorest countries. ... continued accelerated migration would drive wages down for indigenous workers and seriously dilute public goods." He avers, "Only from the wilder shores of libertarianism and utilitarianism can it be argued that migration controls are ethically illegitimate."

Collier praises the nation as a form of civilising collectivism, observing, "national identity ... is enormously important as a force for equity." Nations can be forces for good: "A shared sense of nationhood need not imply aggression; rather it is a practical means of establishing fraternity." So, "nationalism and internationalism need not be alternatives."
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on 10 March 2014
Best book on migration.Distills the true economic and social costs of mass migration.Every politician should read it.His suggestion is that moderate migration is good for host and recipient country.Migration watch and UKIP seem to say the same thing,yet in the mass media they are seen as racist
With simple to understand diagrams the good professor looks at all the options and their consequences,and gives workable solutions to this most notty of problems.Buy this book and you will have the knowledge to evaluate debates on migration which often become polarised.
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on 25 October 2013
An original and solidly reasoned approach to an intractable problem. Having read Bottom Billion and Plundered Planet, my expactations were high, and I was not disappointed. Conceivably the best and most important social sciences book to appear in 2013. Date-of-Issue coincided with my first ever visit to the southern hemisphere. So, it became my first iBook and it was a great inflight read. Before returning home today, I also ordered a hardcover copy, which I am eagerly awaiting to reread and be better able to add my own notes within, as I am used to.

The main merit of the book is that it presents a coherent framework in a fairly simple and accessible manner of an issue where science is usually at least as prejudiced or schewed as politics. While tracing fundamentals of immigration policy issues back to fundamental economic principles, the author still acknowledges that migration should not be taken primarily as an economic issue. In broadening the view to include ethics, the author also backtrace to basic principles instead of just the usual and lazy approach of confusing ethics with current legal interpretations of UN or EU Human Rights declarations in dogmatic form. That leads to some pretty surprising results, convincingly argued, e.g. about host countries' right (even responsibility, perhaps), to halt diaspora chain migration as we know it today.

That being said, while the presented framework is coherent, it is by no means complete - it raises a lot of unanswered questions along the way - and it makes no claims to the contrary. Only, one must hope it will make the basis for such discussion much better informed and constructive than is usual at present - if only prejudiced experts and politicians will bother to read the book and internalize the solid theories and observations presented.

For me the main limitations and loose ends are :
- the author appears to me overly optimistic about "progress", history as a linear development where enlightenment inevitably prevails
- repeated statements that Australia is underpopulated are puzzling to me, considering what I have read about ecology and shortage of water there. (No argument is given, but good references, so it is just for me to look it up!) Still, it is also recognized and solidly argued that any country, Australia included, is morally entitled to be largely selective of immigrants and should not be given to accept desperados and tricksters in leaky boats. Great credits for that.
- likewise it is stated flatly, that e.g. Bangladesh is overpopulated. I can only agree with that, and believe there are several more, perhaps less obvious such examples. However, the book attempts no discussion of what is the appropriate response (realistic and morally defensible) of "the outside world" to a country already overpopulated by people in denial of the situation - and intent on producing yet more people.
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