Movers and stayers

A lot of discussion of immigration is framed around the distinction between movers and stayers. Until recently, most of what I’ve seen has framed “stayers” as those who see their economic interests as being threatened by competition from immigrants. To protect themselves, they want to restrict immigration, even if the consequence is to restrict the opportunities for “movers” from their own country. The harm to these “movers-out” is just collateral damage

But lately I’ve been seeing a different account, in which it’s the departure of the movers-out that is causing problems by reducing the supply of workers to provide services to, and pay taxes to support, the stayers (particularly, the old). In economic terms, the obvious solution would be to replace the movers-out with movers-in, but they are of the wrong religion, skin colour and so on, and are therefore rejected. That exacerbates visible economic decline, particularly in terms of the level of economic activity, even when income per person holds up or is sustained by transfer payments. This in turn produces support for Trumpism and its variants.

This story comes up most clearly in relation to Eastern Europe (most notably Hungary) following accession to the EU, but I think it’s applicable to many rural areas in richer countries.

The feelings of the stayers in this story are understandable. They liked things better as they were, and resent changes. But they are hard to defend in moral terms, since keeping things as they were requires massively constraining the rights of others to work, marry and live in the way they wish to.

On this account, there’s also a lot of self-selection going on here. Staying, and demanding that others do so, is a conservative and authoritarian choice, so the stayers will tend to be those in a given population who fit this description. This comes back to the question of why rural voters support conservative parties, even when those parties serve the interests of the urban rich. I’ve seen (but can’t now find) a very old discussion of this point in relation to France, where it’s been relevant ever since 1789. In the US context, it’s being rediscovered right now.

40 thoughts on “Movers and stayers

  1. J-D, You provided a reference. I used it. It happened to contradict your assertion. End of story.

  2. It happened to contradict your assertion.

    My assertion is that my source contradicted the statement that there was no persecution of Jews in Hungary; and that’s true, as the cited source did contradict that statement by referring to seeral instances of persecution of Jews in Hungary, at more than one point in history.

    It is also true that my source referred to one period of history in which Jews were (according to that source) fairly well integrated in Hungary. However, the statement that there was one historical period when Jews were fairly well integrated in Hungary does not contradict the statement that there were, historically, several instances of persecution of Jews in Hungary.

  3. It is a recurrent phenomenon throughout history for minority groups to be targets of discrimination, oppression, and persecution. Groups which have been targetted in this way, at times and in places where they have been minorities (and less commonly also, where other circumstances permit, even when they have been majorities), include Christians, Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Sunnis, Shi’ites, Sikhs, Baha’is, Copts, Anabaptists, Quakers, Ahmadis, whites, blacks, Chinese, Tamils, Twa, Armenians, Kurds, Ndebeles, Hazara, Igbos, Karens, Papuans, Circassians, Moriori, and Romanies. That’s just a partial illustration of how widespread and how diverse the phenomenon is. Invariably, the perpetrators blame the victims, insisting that the discrimination, oppression, and persecution are caused by the behaviour or the characteristics of the targetted group. The fact that this kind of behaviour recurs so much throughout history and around the world, and the fact that accusations against the victims are so commonly advanced in justification, is no evidence that the accusations are true. (It is, of course, possible that some of the accusations are at least partly true in at least some instances, but the frequency of the accusations does not make it any more likely that they are true; the default probability is that the responsibility for hatred lies with the haters, not with the hated.)

  4. “(…) is no evidence that the accusations are true. (…)” And then neither than they are untrue?

    What sort of pointless statement is this? Logicly it is equivalent to the nicer sounding statement “Pigs fly, or pigs don’t fly”.

  5. Immigration provides “gains-from-trade” that are analogous to removing a prohibitive tariff between a society and its new members provided of course that (i) markets work – so you don’t suffer increased congestion, increased water costs etc and (ii) that you are unconcerned about adverse distributional consequences for labour – oh yes there are some who seriously believe that labour demand curves don’t slope downwards or that induced capital inflows will offset any adverse effects of having more workers on the wages paid to locals. I don’t believe the former but have some belief in the importance of capital flow effects.

    Emigrations (movers) have precisely the reverse effects – they reduce the gains accruing to those who stay behind (stayers) by effectively narrowing a range of markets available to the economy. They might improve the adverse impacts of market imperfections and might help redistribute income towards labour. But generally the effects are seen to be adverse if those leaving are the highly skilled so you lose skill externalities “the brain drain effect”.

    The only way out of this latter effect is if the society whose welfare you are measuring is defined to include those who have left. Then, yes, the augmented society of those remaining and those leaving are better off. But unless those leaving compensate those who remain the latter will be worse off.

    If one immigrant replaces one emigrant with the same skills and if the stayers are unconcerned about living in a less culturally homogenous society then the effects presumably do cancel out as you suggest. But if it is those with skills who leave and it is the unskilled who enter then the stayers do lose out. Their opposition to those leaving then makes sense.

  6. Overpopulation is clearly the problem we (Australia) [1] and the whole world face in the near term, not even the long term. Given dwindling resources, limits to growth, overshoot, climate change, sea level rise, the sixth mass extinction etc., Imagining that conventional economics still has anything useful to contribute is simply a position based on a false ontology.

    Read: “Growthism: its ecological, economic and ethical limits” – Herman Daly

    Note 1: Australia is the most arid, habitable continent on earth, with the least and its fresh water systems are already severely stressed by a 25 million people and an unsustainably extractive agriculture – export system.

  7. Overpopulation is clearly the problem we (Australia) and the whole world face in the near term, not even the long term.

    Migration policy can’t solve a problem of global overpopulation,

  8. As Herman Daly puts it:

    “Those of us old enough to remember the Cold War know that it was basically a contest between Socialism and Capitalism to see who could grow faster, and thereby accumulate more wealth and military power. The audience was the uncommitted countries of the world who would supposedly adopt the economic system of the winner of the growth race. What happened? Basically, Socialism collapsed, and Capitalism won by default. The losers (Russia, China, Eastern Europe) got back in the growth race by adopting State Capitalism,
    real-world economicsreview,issue no. 87subscribe for free12and China has become the growth champion. The present system of world growthism, in the broadly capitalist mode, is triumphant. But growthism itself has turned out to be a false god because growth in our finite and entropic world now increases ecological and social costs faster than production benefits, making us poorer, not richer (except for the top few percent). Recognition of this reversal is obscured by the fact that our national accounts (GDP), do not subtract the costs of growth, but effectively add them by counting the expenditures incurred to defend ourselves from the un-subtracted costs of growth. Even more egregiously, GDP counts the consumption of natural capital as income. Growthism is consuming the life support capacity of the biosphere for the benefit of a small minority of the present generation, while shifting the real but uncounted costs on to the poor, future generations, and other species.”

  9. JQ this may reference “a very old discussion of this point in relation to France, where it’s been relevant ever since 1789”. Exceptionally well referenced. France popn 1788 around 27M.

    “Profile of a political migration
    Age of Emigrations and siècle des exilés”

    “The exile of ca. 150,000 French people in the wake of the French Revolution  of 1789 constitutes the first instance of political emigration on a European, if not indeed a global, scale. Émigrés of the French Revolution left their homeland because they eschewed the political development in France or in reaction to the increasing pressure of political exclusion. They dispersed throughout practically all European states from Sweden to Sicily and from Portugal toRussia, as well as to the fledgling United States and to French, British, and Spanish colonial territories. French émigrés even sporadically reached China and India.1”

    1. Jasanoff, Revolutionary Exiles 2010, p. 49.

  10. Of course there is an app for movers andd stayers – this one for retention in Indiana.

    “A new event Friday in Indianapolis will focus on an issue that has weighed on state leaders for decades: how to recruit and retain graduates of Indiana colleges and universities. The Brain Gain Talent Summit will include executives from nearly 40 Hoosier businesses encouraging hundreds of students to stay after graduation. 

    We want to be recruiting — not just retaining our talent, but actually pulling talent in from the outside, as well.””

    “Current college students representing 19 states and six countries are expected to be attend the summit. Oesterle currently serves as chief executive officer of TMap LLC, an Indiana-focused talent attraction startup. ..”


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