Ian Goldin


On his book Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future

Cover Interview of May 31, 2011

A close-up

This book addresses a wide range of readers, and does not require any prior knowledge of the subject.  But, even for specialist readers, the book contains enough which is new.

Exceptional People is unique in covering both historical and forward-looking perspectives from a range of disciplinary insights and from the perspectives of receiving countries, sending countries, and the migrants themselves.

Readers most concerned with the impact on the receiving countries will be interested in the examination of whether migrants cost societies more than they benefit, how they influence local wages and employment, and how the tax they pay relates to the benefits they receive.

There is fascinating new data which shows the remarkable contributions of migrants to start-ups, innovation and the dynamism of societies.  The recently emerging data on the disproportionate contribution of migrants to new areas of economic growth surprised me—and I imagine it will surprise readers too.

For readers most concerned with the implications of migration for sending countries, the sections of the book which deal with the brain drain, remittances, domestic investment and the social and political costs of migration will be of interest.  I have found that much of the literature on this fails to give a balanced view of the tremendous contribution made by people who have left their homes.

The book seeks to explain why individuals migrate and highlights that this decision is in fact usually taken in conjunction with families and even communities, and is highly related to the experience of friends and networks.  The development of “migration chains” helps explain the high geographic concentration of migrants from certain sources with their destinations, as does the dispersal of these networks over time.

Policy makers and concerned citizens may be particularly interested in the third part of the book which is devoted to the likely future evolution of demographics and labor markets as well as the possible impact of environmental, climate, conflict and other potential drivers of migration.

The concluding chapter focuses on the global migration agenda.  After highlighting the extent to which migration is the neglected orphan of the international system, this chapter offers suggestions as to what should be done.