Monday, January 25, 2010

Free the Market for Haitian Labor

Michael Clemens makes the case at AidWatch to free up the international market for Haitian labor. His statistics are overwhelming:
Leaving Haiti brought more Haitians out of poverty than anything else that has ever been tried...

Of all the Haitians who live either in the United States or Haiti, and who live on more than $10 per day—at U.S. prices, adjusted for the fact that things are cheaper in Haiti—how many live in the U.S.? (That’s a barebones poverty standard, just one third of the U.S. “poverty line” for a single adult.)

82 Percent of Haitians above this poverty line are here in the United States. (I calculate this with Lant Pritchett here) Only the top 1.4 percent of people in Haiti had that living standard even before the quake, and there is no evidence that Haitian emigrants come primarily from the extreme tip-top of the income distribution. So for most of Haitians who left, leaving Haiti was the cause of leaving poverty.
Obviously, the political calculus of mass migration is impossible. It seems to Global Review that the best way to loosen the migration constraint on the Haitian market is to rapidly disperse pre-earthquake orphans to willing adoptive countries. This is being done on a small scale, but is important for three reasons: children can pick up the language and culture of a new country quickly, and integrate seemlessly; orphans have the least to lose by leaving; orphanages in Haiti will need space for earthquake-created orphans, most of whom won't know for some time whether their families survived.

In the moment of crisis and media attention, it will be much easier to find adoptive parents for some of Haiti's reported 380,000 orphans. That's a lot of people - but not too many for the developed world (especially Europe, with its low, low birthrates) to absorb.


Mom said...

Make your mother happy & tell me YOU are going to adopt one!

Chops said...

It is customary to give newlyweds at least 9 months before expecting that they have children! It's certainly something we'd consider in time, though.

(Actually, according to current Haitian law, it'll be years before we're old enough.)

Anonymous said...


Aren't orphans the least likely people to send money back to Haiti? Considering their parents are dead, their other siblings no longer living in Haiti (under your plan they would all be adopted) and they would be living outside Haiti for quite few years before they begin to work, who are they going to send money back to and what is their motivation to do so?

ali baba

Chops said...

Remittances weren't the biggest motivator in my argument. Orphans might do the least for their old country, but they'd do the most for their new countries, and be the least likely to form a ghetto if brought over in large numbers.