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Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future Hardcover – April 24, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2011 PROSE Award in Sociology & Social Work, Association of American Publishers

One of the Best Books in Politics and Current Affairs, The Economist for 2011

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2012

"This is a book of bold ambitions ably fulfilled. Mr. Goldin and his co-authors offer a history of migration, from man's earliest wanderings in Africa to the present day. . . . After filling in the historical background, the authors give a rigorous but readable guide to the costs and benefits of modern migration."--The Economist

"[A]n essential read . . . [the authors'] arguments are buttressed by a deep understanding of the past, a comprehensive engagement with the present, and a clear vision of the future."--Sarah Hackett, Times Higher Education

"In Exceptional People, the authors carry out an evenhanded assessment of the costs and benefits of international migration. They find that all involved--the countries that receive immigrants, those that send them, and immigrants most of all--prosper when movement across borders is allowed without hindrance. Anti-immigration campaigners who consult Exceptional People will encounter hard-to-refute arguments that favor free movement; advocates of open borders will find in the book the data and reasoning they need to fortify their case."--Karunesh Tuli, ForeWord Reviews

"Goldin's conclusion is that western governments should simply accept the inevitable and open their borders, in line with economic demand--albeit within the framework of some pan-national treaty and institution. After all, as he points out, it is odd that there is no global body to oversee the movement of people, as there is with finance and trade. If that liberalization occurred, he thinks it would deliver an 'economic boost as high as $39,000bn over 25 years'. More surprisingly, he also argues that a 'tipping point' will be reached soon, which could shift the political debate. As world population levels stabilize in the next 50 years, a global labor shortage could prompt fierce competition for migrants."--Gillian Tett, Financial Times

"Exceptional People is an absorbing study albeit academic. It strongly advocates the need to establish a global migration agenda and clearly shows that the advantages of migration far outweigh the disadvantages: Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future."--Arab News

"Exceptional People is an excellent book. It would make a great addition to readings lists for graduate and advanced undergraduate courses dealing extensively with migration. Its wide scope will provide plenty of ideas for new academic projects, and its conclusions invite reflection and further discussion."--Chris Minns, EH.net

"Migratory movements have been a persistent component of the human condition, and motivation for migration has varied considerably over time and with respect to the world's constantly shifting political and economic realities. This excellent book provides a broad history of migration. . . . [R]equired reading for anyone interested in the future implications of this most compelling of human activities."--Choice

"Exceptional People is packed with surprising insights. . . . [T]his is a book of bold ambitions ably fulfilled."--Daily Star, Bangladesh

"This book deserves to be widely read. Its principal messages that migration has been an integral part of human history and that migration brings real benefits to origin and destination countries, as well as to the migrants themselves, are well taken."--Ronald Skeldon, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities

"Exceptional People is a wonderful reference for a wide audience. With its comprehensive review of the scholarly field, clear articulation of the migration debates, constant insights, practical policy suggestions, and rich collections of data (including thirty-seven figures and fourteen tables), the book is a great resource for researchers as well as policy makers. Its chronological structure and elegant writing style, together with many boxed cases illustrating specific groups and events of migration, also make it easy to read and suitable for classroom use."--Lisong Liu, Journal of World History

"I found the book very readable and interesting. . . . The third part of the book is particularly insightful and provides an agenda for the free movement of people that can be debated. The book covers a lot of material and would be perfect as an introductory text for undergraduate and graduate courses on migration. . . . [I]t is a refreshing read from ordinary 'doom and gloom' readings. I recommend it wholeheartedly."--James Raymer, Journal of Regional Science

"This is a careful and thorough re-examination of migration in modern society which demolishes most of the substantive arguments against greater support for international migration."--Jonathan Dresner, World History Connected

"The book by Goldin et al is a stimulating work that takes the reader on a very complete journey along the past, present and future of international migrations. . . . [B]esides offering a very careful and elaborated historical review, its main contribution lies in offering an interdisciplinary analysis of these processes. Very well and clearly written, the book is interesting and captivating for a very wide audience, not just for the scientific community or the experts in migration studies."--Juan Felipe Mejia, European Journal of Development Research

"[T]his is a fine book that provides much insight. It is not an economics book and does not claim to be one. But it is a book that many economists, and anyone interested in migration, would do well to read."--Tim Hatton, Economic Record

"This study is clearly written and well argued. With a comprehensive index, meticulous notes and a large bibliography, its sources are easily accessible to every reader. Its arguments are controversial and . . . deserve thoughtful consideration by anyone involved in the issue, especially legislators and policy makers."--Eleanor L. Turk, Yearbook of German-American Studies

"The authors have written the book I had considered undertaking as capstone of my work, but undoubtedly carried out better than I would have on my own. . . . Highly ambitious, the book largely delivers what it promises, a broad theoretically based understanding of the role of migration in shaping the course of human history, without succumbing to the temptation of striving to achieve a general theory of migration."--Aristide R. Zolberg, Ethnic & Racial Studies

From the Back Cover

"A sweeping and constructive study. With a deep sense of what sort of creatures we humans are, this book takes us through millennia in the unending quest of people for development and discovery. It suggests that population movements have been the carriers of innovation from one region to others. It will change, if anything can, the way governments and international organizations view immigration policy."--Edmund S. Phelps, Nobel Prize-winning economist

"Migration is not a zero-sum game; it brings great benefits to the receiving country, the sending country, and to migrants themselves. That is the clear message of the evidence from history, economics, and the social sciences more generally. This wise book assembles that evidence in a very thoughtful, careful, and scholarly way, making an enormous contribution to this crucial subject and providing fundamental guidance on one of the key issues of our times."--Nicholas Stern, London School of Economics and Political Science

"In capturing the full sweep of immigration as a key part of human experience and development from the remote past to the distant future, Exceptional People strikes a perfect balance between sympathetic understanding of the basic motivations to migrate and hardheaded pragmatism with respect to government policy. The authors' narrative is insightful, clear-eyed, and deftly written, and will engage the attention of both experts and the interested lay audience."--Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University

"The fear of the outsider is a pervasive feature of Western culture. Yet, as the authors show so powerfully, we all owe our origins to historical migrations. Migrants are indeed exceptional people who enrich our societies and boost our economies by challenging conventional ways of doing things. This book reveals that migration is an essential part of human development and that we lose a great deal through widespread perceptions of migration as a problem. The global migration agenda proposed in this highly readable book shows how potential downsides could be reduced and enormous benefits realized."--Stephen Castles, coauthor of The Age of Migration

"In public discourse, migration may be the subject that minimizes the ratio of clarity to volume. The authors deserve high praise for joining this discussion with the quiet and clear yet firm voice that is the hallmark of economic analysis at its best."--Paul Romer, Stanford University

"This clear and lively book is the most skillful articulation of the case for the liberalization of international migration. The authors consistently present migration's benefits, but do not ignore migration's costs or shy away from controversy. It makes an important argument on an important subject, and deserves to be widely read."--Kathleen Newland, Migration Policy Institute


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691145725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691145723
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #979,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In a recent interview, Ian Goldin said (and I am paraphrasing) that if he was ever made dictator of the world for one day he would prohibit people who don't believe in globalization from consuming or using any product that was produced in a foreign country or was made from raw materials that have come from other countries. These people will be so miserable. They will not be able to use cell phones, cars, etc... Well, you get the point.

In this book, the authors lay down the case that immigration is good for the sending countries, it's good for the receiving countries, it's good for the migrant and it's good for the world in general. The authors provide plenty of empirical evidence to back this argument. To state a few:

1.According to data from the World Bank, migrants send back home over $350 billion a year, a sum much greater than all world aid granted to developing nations.

2. A big part of this money goes to education for the next generation, which helps grow the economy over the long run.

3. At an aggregate level, immigration stimulates the economy of receiving countries because low skilled foreign workers often take the jobs that are not wanted by native workers. Furthermore, by taking these jobs, business are able to offer services at a lower price which every consumer benefits from. According to the authors, "in the late 1980s and 1990s U.S. cities that had high levels of immigration saw reductions in the costs of housekeeping, gardening, child care, dry cleaning, and other labor intensive services." (p.167).

4. A common fallacy is that foreign workers rely on social benefits and therefore are a drag on taxpayers and the economy in general.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ian Goldin, Geoffrey Cameron, and Meera Balarajan set themselves the ambitious goal of challenging the dogma that an increase in cross-border migration is undesirable. To that end, Goldin, Cameron, and Balarajan first review the key role that migrants played in spreading ideas and knowledge before the advent of modern communication technologies. The authors analyze subsequently the contemporary period of managed migration that arose in the wake of WWI. Goldin, Cameron, and Balarajan do a great job in highlighting the paradox in which the world has operated mostly for the last century. Humanity lives in an increasingly globalized environment. At the same time, the international flow of people has never been as tightly regulated as it is today.

The authors share with their audience the evidence that clearly show that sending and receiving countries as well as a majority of migrants benefit from migration today.

Many developed countries face concomitantly shrinking workforces and aging populations, resulting in a higher economic demand for low-skilled workers. Many (service) jobs will not fall prey to technology. Furthermore, undocumented migration has been quietly tolerated for a long time. These (low-skilled) migrants are meeting critical needs in the economies of the receiving countries. Think for example about the agricultural sector in the United States. In addition, enterprises, especially the large companies, will keep the pressure on (elected) officials to admit more high-skilled workers, especially in academic, business, and technologies. Businesses are often interested in hiring people with cross-cultural skills and perspectives and the education to thrive in an information-driven environment.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Extremely through literature review and analysis of migration. Yet, I'd love to read an update of the book in the light of the recent events in North Africa, the Middle East and the refugee wave in Europe.
At time it feels like the book fails to provide compelling hard evidence on the benefits of migration - yes, economists agree on the positive effect, but there is no way to really quantify the benefits, no way to run experiments.
The book also fails to provide any meaningful advice on how to integrate immigrants and fails to tackle the thorny issue of religion and culture.
Most of the recommendations at the end of the book sound like wishful thinking and don't provide anything that can be realistically implemented.
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Format: Hardcover
The title is slightly misleading - this is about Migration.

The author covers 3 parts, the distant history, current, and future probably trends, or at least what the author would like to see.

I was somewhat surprised by recent history, where very big numbers involved the Turks and Greece etc, but History was not my pet subject when I was at school. So that was good. The Author makes comparisons worldwide, and not time bound, drawing parallels to make a point.

The following six interrelated factors are put in evidence:
1. Persistent inter-country inequality and wage disparities;
2. Economic growth in the poorest countries;
3. Rural displacement and urbanization;
4. Rising education standards in developing countries;
5. Growing working-age populations in developing countries;
6. Environmental stress.

I get the feeling that he concentrates much on the macro level, and somewhat skips over the micro - cultural resistance, which then leads him to state that "we" must do this and that (fight xenophobia for example)

Clearly,over the next 50 years or so, the quoted previous factor of economic disparity of about 1 to 5 or 10, some 200 years ago between countries, and now 1 to 400 will decrease, partly through the lowering of barriers to migration (Internet info,travel costs etc) and that is quite worthy in itself.

One wonders if given the ageing population in the west, and desirability to migrate today, whether the window of opportunity will remain, if the west remains on it's present tack of restricting migration as it does today.
If the west does not do something fairly quickly, it may be left out! and suffer substantially as a consequence.
One does not eradicate xenophobia that quickly in a population that has been fed on "fear" over decades.
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