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Walls and Fences: A Journey Through History and Economics

Part of the Footprints of Regional Science book series (VRS)

Abstract

Throughout history, border walls and fences have been built for defense, to claim land, to signal power, and to control migration. The costs of fortifications are large while the benefits are questionable. The recent trend of building walls and fences signals a paradox: In spite of the anti-immigration rhetoric of policymakers, there is little evidence that walls are effective in reducing terrorism, migration, and smuggling. Economic research suggests large benefits to open border policies in the face of increasing global migration pressures. Less restrictive migration policies should be accompanied by institutional changes aimed at increasing growth, improving security, and reducing income inequality in poorer countries.

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Fig. 3.1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development https://data.oecd.org/migration/foreign-born-population.htm.

  2. 2.

    United Nations Population Fund http://www.unfpa.org/migration.

  3. 3.

    The UN Refugee Agency https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean.

  4. 4.

    http://news.gallup.com/poll/211883/number-potential-migrants-worldwide-tops-700-million.aspx.

  5. 5.

    Climate change has been identified as a major source of the nomadic invasions against the agriculturalists in mid-to-late imperial China (Pei et al. 2018).

  6. 6.

    Financial Times https://www.ft.com/content/ccf4b532-3935-11e6-9a05-82a9b15a8ee7.

  7. 7.

    Gulf News Jan 22, 2015 http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi-arabia/saudi-arabia-building-hi-tech-border-fence-1.1445112.

  8. 8.

    Migration Data Portal https://migrationdataportal.org.

  9. 9.

    World Bank Open Data https://data.worldbank.org.

  10. 10.

    The Conversation https://theconversation.com/why-al-shabaab-targets-kenya-and-what-the-country-can-do-about-it-87371.

  11. 11.

    Economic development and emigration from developing countries are found to be inverse U-shaped. Hence, rising income increases the possibilities for migration, but migration has also a positive impact on development back home. See for a review of the rich literature Clemens (2014) and specific articles like de Haas (2010), Zimmermann (2017a, b), and Dao et al. (2018).

  12. 12.

    New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/15/us/15hiring.html.

  13. 13.

    World Bank Migration and Remittances Data 2018. http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/migrationremittancesdiasporaissues/brief/migration-remittances-data.

  14. 14.

    See also footnote 10 and the literature cited there.

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Acknowledgements

We thank K. Bruce Newbold and two anonymous reviewers for many helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft.

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Vernon, V., Zimmermann, K.F. (2021). Walls and Fences: A Journey Through History and Economics. In: Kourtit, K., Newbold, B., Nijkamp, P., Partridge, M. (eds) The Economic Geography of Cross-Border Migration. Footprints of Regional Science(). Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-48291-6_3

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