Bryan Caplan  

The Equator in Comin, Easterly, and Gong

Comedian Tackles Immigration... My First Speech at St. John's:...
Via email, Easterly tells me that their "distance from the equator" variable is "the ratio of degrees of latitude to 90 degrees."  So what do their results imply about the net effect of immigration?  Let's return to their key table, remembering that the published paper accidentally flipped the sign on "landlocked."


So suppose you move the population of a landlocked equatorial country to a coastal country at 45 degrees latitude.  45 degrees latitude corresponds to a "distance from the equator" score of .5.  CEG's results in column (3) therefore predict their log per-capita GDP will rise by .5*1.68 + .25*1.063+.646=1.75.  That almost exactly equals the effect of having ancestors with a tech score of 0 (the minimum) and ancestors with a tech score of 1 (the maximum).

The comparison for columns (1) and (2) is even more lopsided.  If you think CEG provides a clear-cut rationale for restricting Third World immigration, you're suffering from confirmation bias.

COMMENTS (6 to date)
E. Harding writes:

Again, there's no reason to suspect that genetics doesn't play a huge role here.

And one curious thing about distance from equator is that though there are quite a few rich countries near the equator, there are no poor countries far away from it.

Garett Jones writes:

One relevant question for open borders supporters is "What is the likely effect on me and my descendants if we admit large numbers of citizens from low CEG-scoring nations?"

To answer that question, you only change the migration-adjusted technology level, holding geography constant. Caplan has changed that coefficient along with the geography coefficient. His experiment is interesting for some purposes--for instance, if a group near the equator moved to an unpopulated region closer to the poles.

Caplan's exercise is not relevant to the question of how large-scale migration from low CEG-scoring nations to high CEG-scoring nations will likely influence long-run GDP per person in the previously high-scoring nation.

Of course, I could discourse at greater length, but I believe the 1.8 log point coefficient in Column 3 deserves your attention, not the geography coefficient. Migration *into* a country holds that country's geography constant.

"Ceteris paribus," as they say.

December writes:

How is this analysis controlling for genetic factors? It's not, yet you claim only confirmation bias prevents someone from coming to your position. The reverse could also apply.

One other point - when people move to a different geography and they are more productive, I don't think it has has anything to do with geography. It has everything to do with the people that live in the new place and the kind of society that they have built. Britain is prosperous because of British culture, government, norms, etc. Somalia is not prosperous because of their culture, (lack of) government, and norms. It's the *people* that matter.

One key issue open borders advocates do not address is the potential for immigrants to change the culture of the country in a manner which leaves it less prosperous than before. What mechanism will prevent this from happening, especially in a scenario where very large numbers of people could move at any time?

Miguel Madeira writes:

"And one curious thing about distance from equator is that though there are quite a few rich countries near the equator, there are no poor countries far away from it."

Well, there is also much more countries near the equator than far away from it (a result of sphericity of the earth).

But I don't know if Mongolia, Ukraine and Moldova are not far way from equador.

Matthew Light writes:

And, of course, North Korea is quite far from the equator.

Anon. writes:

Have there been attempts to figure out how much of the geographic effect is reverse causality? e.g. there's nothing about the Bay Area that increases productivity in software development, but it's a very nice place to live so it attracts high-productivity people.

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