Voting with your feet is an ancient human solution to poor local governance. Maybe that’s why politicians fear it so much they lock up migrants on remote islands or deport foreign-born adoptees to countries they barely know.
Yet migrants may live longer, contribute more taxes, and comprise one-seventh of the global constituency, according to a Lancet commission on migration and global health published Wednesday. That figure includes domestic migrants, who are the vast majority of people on the move. Headline-grabbing international migrants have also constituted a steady 3% or so of the world population since 1990, spiking to 3.4% in 2017 due to the conflicts in Syria, Myanmar, and Yemen.
A common refrain of anti-migration politicians in rich countries is that migrants carry disease. “Suspicion against migrants as carriers of disease is probably the most pervasive and powerful myth related to migration and health throughout history,” write the authors. Instead, international migrants to rich countries live longer than the native-born, on average, the team report. The finding appears to apply to refugees but not asylum seekers, the team notes, but there is less data available for both groups compared to other types of migrants.
Another refrain is that immigrants have a negative impact on jobs and welfare resources. Yet the International Monetary Fund, not exactly a bleeding-heart institution, estimates that every 1% increase in migrants among the adult population boosts the host nation’s GDP by 2% and that GDP boost seems to benefit even the host nations’ lower earners.
Perhaps it’s time to update Lady Liberty’s welcoming poem to thank other countries for sending their long-lived, their hard-working, their mobile masses yearning to breathe free.