Mason economics welcomes Professor Michael Clemens

Mason economics welcomes Professor Michael Clemens
Michael Clemens

Michael Clemens has his mind on world-wide concerns. 

For the past twenty years, he has studied and addressed issues of migration in his work with the Center for Global Development, where he was a senior fellow and served as their director of migration, displacement, and humanitarian policy. 

“A lot of the problems that people associate with migration are very real,” he said, “but many of them arise from, I would call them ‘missing institutions’: missing ways of regulating migration better for the common benefit.” 

The question is “not, is migration good or bad, because I don’t think an answer to that question exists. But what are policies and institutions that could shape migration in ways that are much more mutually beneficial?” 

Clemens is now bringing these questions to Mason’s students, as a professor in the Department of Economics. “I am just very excited to be teaching,” he said. In the spring 2023 semester, he will be teaching a section of ECON 309: Economic Problems and Public Policies. “I get to choose which policies to focus on and ... you can guess what I think is one of the most important policy challenges that this and many other countries face.” 

Clemens’ work is supported by a generous gift from Open Philanthropy, an organization that researches and funds projects with a broad goal of helping others as much as possible with the resources available to them.  

He sees promise in applying economic understanding to the complexities that underlie the question of migration. “Economics is just one of many ways to look at it,” he explained. “There are cultural issues, there are legal issues ... However, I would insist on economic policy being a fruitful ground for shaping policy to be better for everyone. It can make a contribution; it can be a useful tool alongside the other ones.”