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Is the Mediterranean the New Rio Grande? A Comment


Hanson and McIntosh (J Econ Perspect 30:57–81, 2016) provide projections on the evolution of bilateral migration stocks up to 2050. Their main argument is that, because of a shifting geographical distribution of population growth, European countries will face a mounting (but heterogenous) migration pressure, while the migration pressure facing the United States will be reduced. We provide arguments suggesting that the future migration flows through the Mediterranean could be even larger, and more evenly distributed across European countries with respect to what Hanson and McIntosh (2016) predict.

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  1. Almost all Latin American countries, with the minor exceptions of Guatemala and French Guyana, are expected to experience an absolute decline in the size of the 0–14 cohort by the 2040s according to the United Nation’s World Population Prospects (Hanson and McIntosh 2016, p. 68).

  2. This tension is reflected in the widespread reliance on theoretical micro-foundations for the gravity equation in the static models proposed in the 1970s by Daniel McFadden to model consumption choices, while migration decisions is a forward-looking investment decision.

  3. Bertoli et al. (2016) provide evidence about the sensitivity of bilateral migration flows with respect to changing expectations about future economic conditions.

  4. In this latter respect, D’Amuri et al. (2010) and Ottaviano and Peri (2012) provide econometric evidence that immigration produces a detrimental effect on the wages of immigrants that were already settled at destination, because of the close substitutability between current and past immigrants.

  5. The migration rate of individuals aged 50 and above is meant to capture the past scale of bilateral migration flows and, hence, the size of bilateral migration networks established in the past, although this variable might also capture the attractiveness of a destination around 2000, as the stock of s-born individuals above 50 residing in d in 2000 is reflecting their decision to remain in d, rather than moving back to s or move on to another destination.

  6. For Italy, the number of foreign-born aged 15–64 is expected to increase from less then 5 to almost 10 million by 2050.

  7. The divergent demographic trend between the Northern and the Southern shores of the Mediterranean entail a radically different perspective on these numbers: substantial increases in inflows in some European countries are matched by a very modest relief of the demographic pressure on the labor market of Sub-Saharan African countries, as migration to Europe is predicted to absorb just 1% of the absolute increase in population.

  8. As Hanson and McIntosh (2016) observe, the current wave of refugees towards Germany might change the picture for this country, with the creation of sizable diasporas from countries with a strong population growth.


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Correspondence to Simone Bertoli.

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I am grateful to the Editor-In-Chief Luca De Benedictis for his very careful reading of the first draft of this comment; the usual disclaimers apply.

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Bertoli, S. Is the Mediterranean the New Rio Grande? A Comment. Ital Econ J 3, 255–259 (2017).

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  • International migration
  • Demography
  • Projections

JEL Classification

  • F22
  • J11