Diaspora, Development, and Democracy: The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India

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"Kapur makes a powerful case that international flows of people are shaping the world in ways with which we have yet to come to grips. Kapur artfully combines case studies, statistical analysis, and new surveys, from both India and the United States, to paint a fascinating picture of India's experience that is full of twists and surprises. He documents how the Indian diaspora has been a source, not just of remittances, but also of ideas, networks, influence, and even democratic stability. Emigration leaves a large footprint on the Indian polity and economy. But whether it produces good or ill effects, Kapur concludes, depends more on domestic structures than on global ones."---Dani Rodrik, Harvard University" "This book has four achievements. It is the best account to date of one of the major phenomena of our time: the creation of a powerful Indian diaspora and its impact on India. It sets new benchmarks in innovative ways of collecting data and introducing empirical rigor to discussions of the subject. It makes a deeply interesting theoretical argument about how exit options may help mitigate conflict. And finally, it shows how development is often the product of many unintended actions. It combines a novel historical imagination with good social science."---Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president, Center for Policy Research, Delhi" "Truly original, this book opens up an entirely new area of study. By looking at how the movement of people across the world influences the countries of their origin and then carefully tracing these causal connections with reference to India, Kapur is setting an agenda that others will follow."---Atul Kohli, Princeton University" "This is a landmark in migration studies, and in the study of the Indian diaspora and its effects on both host countries and India. The book revolutionizes our understanding of the Indian diaspora, and the political, economic, and social effects of contemporary migrant communities in general."---Steven Wilkinson, Yale University" "The Domestic Impact of International Migration from India" "What Happens to a Country when its skilled workers emigrate? The first book to examine the complex economic, social, and political effects of emigration on India, Diaspora, Development, and Democracy provides a conceptual framework for understanding the repercussions of international migration on migrants' home countries." "Devesh Kapur finds that migration has influenced India far beyond a simplistic "brain drain"---migration's impact greatly depends on who leaves and why. The book offers new methods and empirical evidence for measuring these traits and shows how data about these characteristics link to specific outcomes. For instance, the positive selection of Indian migrants through education has strengthened India's democracy by creating a political space for previously excluded social groups. Because older Indian elites have an exit option, they are less likely to resist the loss of political power at home. Education and training abroad have played an important role in facilitating the flow of expertise to India, integrating the country into the world economy, positively shaping how India is perceived, and changing traditional conceptions of citizenship. The book highlights a paradox---while international migration is a cause and consequence of globalization, its effects on countries of origin depend largely on factors internal to those countries." A rich portrait of the Indian migrant community, Diaspora, Development, and Democracy explores the complex political and economic consequences of migration for the countries migrants leave behind.

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Editorial Reviews

Kapur's innovative study examines the impact of international migration from India on Indian democracy and development. His analytical framework allows him to investigate how household decision making is affected among those considering emigration, how those left behind are affected, how the diaspora affects India from abroad, and how returning Indians make a difference.
Asian Affairs
Kapur's [book] provide[s] a useful academic and analytical foil to easy generalizations about the influence of the Indian diaspora at home and abroad.
— William Crawley
Developing Economies
[T]he value of this book is extraordinary because of the author's insightful and systematic analysis of the various aspects of the Indian diaspora.
— Norio Kondo
Asian Affairs - William Crawley
Kapur's [book] provide[s] a useful academic and analytical foil to easy generalizations about the influence of the Indian diaspora at home and abroad.
Developing Economies - Norio Kondo
[T]he value of this book is extraordinary because of the author's insightful and systematic analysis of the various aspects of the Indian diaspora.
From the Publisher
Co-Winner of the 2012 Distinguished Book Award, Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Migration Section of the International Studies Association

"Kapur's innovative study examines the impact of international migration from India on Indian democracy and development. His analytical framework allows him to investigate how household decision making is affected among those considering emigration, how those left behind are affected, how the diaspora affects India from abroad, and how returning Indians make a difference."Choice

"Kapur's [book] provide[s] a useful academic and analytical foil to easy generalizations about the influence of the Indian diaspora at home and abroad."—William Crawley, Asian Affairs

"[T]he value of this book is extraordinary because of the author's insightful and systematic analysis of the various aspects of the Indian diaspora."—Norio Kondo, Developing Economies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691125381
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/19/2010
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Devesh Kapur is associate professor of political science and holds the Madan Lal Sobti Professorship for the Study of Contemporary India at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Read an Excerpt

Diaspora, Development, and Democracy

By Devesh Kapur


Copyright © 2010 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-12538-1

Chapter One

The Missing Leg of the Globalization Triad: International Migration


In recent years, the analysis of globalization-its multiple causes, manifestations, and complex consequences-has become a staple of discussion within academia and public discourse. The innumerable facets of globalization have given the term a certain elasticity and made it difficult to reconcile its multiple complexities. There is little disagreement regarding the reality of the unprecedented growth (at least since World War II) of cross-border flows of capital, goods, and services. However, there is less agreement as to the relative importance of the various factors and mechanisms that are facilitating and driving these flows. On the one hand, many agree that technological changes, which have resulted in a sharp decline in the transaction costs of global goods and services trade, whether containerization (in the case of manufactured goods) or information technologies (in the case of services), have undoubtedly played an important role. There is less agreement, however, as to how technological changes have interacted with other driving or intermediary variables, such as the role of ideas (particularly the triumph of so-called neoliberal economic ideas), the role of international organizations (especially the Bretton Woods institutions and the World Trade Organization [WTO]), the role of major powers (particularly the United States), and last, changes within countries themselves. There is least consensus on the welfare implications of globalization, both among and within countries, as well its links with contemporaneous complex phenomena such as climatic changes and terrorism.

However, whatever the debate regarding the causal mechanism of globalization and its normative consequences, few would question the reality that cross-border flows of products (goods and services) and financial capital have transformed the global economic and political landscape over the last half-century. Yet the burgeoning literature has paid limited attention to the third leg of the globalization triad: the flow of labor. The premise of this book is that cross-border flows of human capital are likely to play an equally influential role in shaping the political and economic landscape over the next fifty years. While a variety of factors-demographics, technologies, economic structures, domestic politics, institutional structures, and national security concerns-will mediate the specific characteristics and magnitudes of these flows, there is little doubt that these flows will have a profound and transformative impact on both sending and receiving countries.

The consequences of such potentially large immigrant inflows have prompted much debate and analysis in advanced industrial countries. There is also substantial literature (especially in sociology and cultural studies) on diasporas themselves and the phenomenon of transnationalism. But another reality has received short shrift: what will be the consequences on the sending country of large cross-border flows of people? This book seeks to understand the political and economic consequences of international migration and diaspora formation on the country of origin, focusing on India.

What Do We Know about International Migration?

The last few centuries have witnessed four significant waves of international migration: the forced migration from Africa to the Americas in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the transatlantic migration from Europe to the Americas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the labor migrations from China and India to other parts of Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean (and from China to the Americas); and the mass movements of populations in the aftermath of World War II.

In more recent years, three significant migrant streams have been reshaping the global landscape. First, there were the forced migrations resulting from civil war and ethnic cleansing, as in Afghanistan, Africa, and the Balkans. Second, we must count the multiple streams of unskilled and semiskilled labor migration: from South Asia to the Middle East; from Central America and Mexico to the United States; from Indonesia and Myanmar to Thailand and Malaysia; from the Maghreb to Southern Europe; and so on. Third, there is skilled migration from lower income countries, particularly within Asia and Africa, to industrialized countries in Europe and the Americas.

International migration in the latter half of the twentieth century has been strikingly different from the great migrations of a century earlier in one crucial respect. From a hemispherical perspective, in the nineteenth century, there were two separate streams of international migration-North-North and South-South-exemplified by the migration from Europe to the "New World" and from China and India to other countries in the South. In the more recent period, while international migration also has two main streams-South-South and South-North-the migrants in both cases are from developing countries. As a result, the foreign-born population in industrialized countries has increased significantly from 1965 to 2000 (table 1.1). It has more than doubled in North America (from 6 to 13 percent) and increased by a third in Australia and New Zealand (Oceania). Across industrialized regions, the sharpest increase has been in Europe (from 2.2 to 7.7 percent), and even more in Western Europe (from 2.2 to 10.3 percent).

This significant shift in the levels and selection characteristics of immigrants has created deep concerns in industrialized countries. There is growing literature on the effects of international migration on labor markets, national security, and social security and welfare systems. Immigration has had increasingly significant effects on domestic politics in industrialized countries, demonstrated, for instance, through the revival of extreme right-wing nativist parties in several European countries. All this has contributed to deep uneasiness about the implications of immigrants on the "core" national identity of the receiving country, an uneasiness reflected, for example, in Samuel Huntington's analysis of Hispanic migration to the United States and the furor over the banning of headscarves worn (mainly) by Muslim schoolgirls in France.

In contrast to the scholarship on the countries that receive migrants, discussions of the implications of migration for sending countries and societies have been relatively limited. These include studies in economic history examining the effects of the large outflows of labor from Europe in the late nineteenth century on labor markets in source countries; the celebration of international diasporic networks as the "commons of mutual interest" divorced from the "commons of place and local resources"; the effects of diasporic networks as channels of influence for "values"; the role of the Chinese diaspora (the "bamboo network") in channeling trade and investment into China; and a burgeoning literature on the effects of financial remittances. A small but emerging literature has begun focusing on the political effects of international migration on countries of origin.

A recent analysis of a specific segment of this migration-namely, the consequences of skilled labor flows on developing countries-argues that mounting demographic pressures in industrialized countries and resulting increases in dependency ratios will put unsustainable fiscal pressures on the social security systems of industrialized countries. This, in turn, will increase the demand for labor from developing countries and is likely to translate into immigration policies designed to draw the "fiscally attractive" section of the population-specifically, individuals in the midtwenties to midforties age group who have higher education and demonstrated skills. Additionally, for cultural, political, and economic reasons, immigration policies in industrialized countries will favor temporary migration-where migrants are likely to return to their country of origin-especially for less-skilled laborers. Last, national security and neighborhood concerns will affect which sending countries are favored and which are not. Industrialized country decision makers face the prospect of either allowing more immigration from culturally heterogeneous countries or looking on as skilled, white-collar jobs move outside the country. For firms within industrialized countries, the degree to which services are tradable, lower-cost skilled labor is available overseas, and international contracting is feasible will lead them to contract overseas; the more this happens, the greater the pressure will be in industrialized countries to target selective immigration.

Why Is Emigration Understudied, and What Are Its Implications?

In contrast to the substantial literature on the political economy of financial flows and trade, discussions on the political economy consequences of international migration for the country of origin are virtually absent. The key reason appears to be the absence of data on international migration. Unlike the other two legs of the globalization triad, international migration data are woeful. In the case of capital flows, the past few decades have seen huge leaps in the quantity and quality of data, which now include duration (maturity), type (debt/portfolio/foreign direct investment [FDI]), and conditions (interest rate, currency structure, etc.), and distinguish between stocks and flows and sources and destinations. International organizations (the Bretton Woods institutions, the Bank for International Settlements, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development [UNCTAD]) have played a key role in data access, comparability, and comprehensiveness. In the case of trade flows, the data are equally good, although data on trade in services are weaker compared to data on trade in goods. Once again, international organizations such as the United Nations, Bretton Woods institutions, and more recently, the WTO have played a key role in developing high-quality, comparable, cross-country data.

However, in the case of the third leg of globalization-international migration-data comparable to that for goods and capital flows simply do not exist. The sending country cannot capture data on migrants since they are no longer in the country, and data on migrants in receiving countries are limited by the variables of interest in that country. Most economic studies of international migration focus on labor market effects; hence, the selection variables they are interested in include education, gender, age, and earnings. These data are often available from sources similar to the census. However, even these data were not available cross-nationally until very recently, and they remain imperfect even now. For instance, only a very gross reading of education data is possible, as the data set tracks only levels of education-there are no data on the type or quality of education. The loss of a migrant with a tertiary education could potentially be much greater if she studied medicine as opposed to a more general liberal arts program (depending on the definition of "loss"). Similarly, the data cannot distinguish between an individual who graduated from an extremely selective educational institution from another who went to a mediocre one. Consequently, the only way to gauge the loss of the quality of human capital to the country of origin is to impute it from earnings, a very imperfect measure for migrants, which in any case is often unavailable. Equally (if not more importantly), the real significance might be in the unobservable characteristics of the migrant, such as whether the individual is a risk taker, is an institutional builder, or has leadership qualities. In the aforementioned example, while the loss of a doctor will have a more negative impact on public health, the loss of a liberal arts graduate, who may have gone on to shape public policy or had the leadership potential to build institutions, might have more deleterious effects for the sending country more broadly. As you will see in chapter 2, the effects on the sending country depend critically on the selection effects: who leaves, how many leave, why they leave, the legal basis on which they leave, where they go, how they fare, and how long have they been gone. Thus, the political effects of migration from Nigeria on that country may depend on (among other variables) the religion, ethnicity, and region from which migrants are drawn and whether they left through legal or illegal channels. Unfortunately, however, there simply do not exist any data at that level of detail.

I argue in this book that the absence of analytical attention to the third leg of globalization has severe consequences for our understanding of the political economy of developing countries and encompasses a wide range of questions. Goldberg and Pavcnik's survey of the effects of trade liberalization on inequality and poverty in developing countries is compromised by a severe attribution problem: during the 1990s, as Latin American countries were undertaking drastic trade liberalization, they were also receiving increasing amounts of migrants' remittances, most of which were accruing to lower income groups. Drawing causal links between trade liberalization and changes in inequality and poverty, while ignoring inflows of tens of billions of dollars to relatively poor households, can result in a severe attribution problem.

In addition to these economic effects, the political implications of migration can also be substantial, but the precise effect depends on who leaves, how many, and why. One explanation of the extension of the franchise in Western societies in the nineteenth century attributes the move to strategic decisions by the political elite to prevent widespread social unrest and revolution. However, this was also a period of unprecedented emigration from these societies, a trend that increased stability in these countries by lowering population pressures, raising wages, and removing troublesome groups (ranging from convicts to minorities). Following the massive workers' uprising in Paris in 1848, the Assembly voted to "clear the capital of subversive elements." The solution? Provide free land grants to such elements in Algeria. In the absence of these "vents for surplus populations," would the gradualism in the extension of the franchise have been undermined by more severe instability?

In more recent times, the pressures of "incidents of voice, actual exit and exit's politicising influence" precipitated the collapse of the German Democratic Republic. An analogous argument has been made in case of Bulgaria. The flight of more than a quarter of a million Bulgarian Turks to Turkey in 1989, a response to years of discrimination, is often cited as a factor contributing to the fall of the communist regime later in that year.

In other cases, such as in Cuba and Zimbabwe, authoritarian regimes have sought to maintain political stability through the deliberate use of a strategy of "venting disgruntled groups" through emigration. Between 1959 and 2004, Cuba lost between 12 and 15 percent of its population in four waves of emigration, beginning with upper-class white elites in the earliest wave, to the largely black working class in the final one. In Zimbabwe, the iron grip of Robert Mugabe and the sharp deterioration of the economy led to a hemorrhaging of the country's middle class, which fled to South Africa. The result, according to an opposition politician in Harare, "makes [Mugabe] a very, very happy dictator.... He gets rid of his opponents and they in turn send back money to their families in Zimbabwe and that keeps things ticking over." Zimbabwe's loss has been South Africa's gain, which needs the middle-class professionals (especially after losing much of its own, largely white, middle class to emigration) for its growing economy, one reason perhaps why South Africa has not been particularly interested in putting pressure on Mugabe to reform.


Excerpted from Diaspora, Development, and Democracy by Devesh Kapur Copyright © 2010 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables


Chapter 1 The Missing Leg of the Globalization Triad: International Migration 1

Chapter 2 Analytical Framework and Research Methodology 23

Chapter 3 Selection Characteristics of Emigration from India 50

Chapter 4 Economic Effects 84

Chapter 5 Social Remittances: Migration and the Flow of Ideas 124

Chapter 6 International Migration and the Paradox of India's Democracy 162

Chapter 7 The Indian Diaspora and Indian Foreign Policy: Soft Power or Soft Underbelly? 185

Chapter 8 Civil or Uncivil Transnational Society? The Janus Face of Long-Distance Nationalism 210

Chapter 9 Spatially Unbound Nations 253

Appendix I Survey of Emigration from India (SEI) 273

Appendix II Survey of Asian Indians in the United States (SAIUS): Methodology 281

Appendix III Survey of Asian Indians in the United States (SAIUS): Questionnaire 287

Appendix IV Database on India's Elites (1950-2000) 293

Bibliography 297

Index 315

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