Immigration is suddenly a hot topic in Washington. From an issue with about as much traction as an ice cube on a skating rink, the election (and Republican’s drubbing at the hands of Latinos) has created a consensus around the need for reform. That’s great. There are very few things Washington could do to help the U.S. economic recovery and long-term growth than welcoming more entrepreneurs, creators, and workers from overseas. But while the movement of people to America is on the agenda in D.C., politicians might want to think about the benefits of people moving inside America, too.
Around the world, movement from poor rural areas to rich cities within countries has been a vital part of wealth creation. China alone has 140 million internal migrants, for example—most moved from the middle of the country to more prosperous coastal areas such as Shanghai, where they can earn more while their children can get a better education and quality health care. Just as international migrants send back $406 billion to their home countries each year, internal migrants support the families and communities they leave behind. And the wealth they create alongside the taxes they pay allow central governments to provide services and support to lagging regions.