Immigration Economics: The Power of People with Aarti Shahani

Contrary to conventional wisdom, economic research makes it clear that increased immigration to the U.S. would be a huge boon, spurring innovation, entrepreneurship and long-term economic growth.

Why then are some in politics and the media stoking an anti-immigration sentiment?

Is it possible that fear of cultural disruption is standing in the way of boosting the American economy, improving international relations, jump-starting local communities and driving future innovation? 

How does this research change the debate around immigration? What leadership role should companies play? What is their moral responsibility?

In this episode, Host Gautam Mukunda speaks with award-winning NPR journalist, best-selling author, and activist Aarti Shahani about her tenacious campaign to emancipate her father from the threat of deportation and her ongoing advocacy for migrant identity. And Brookings Institute Economist Dany Bahar shares his research on why immigration may be essential for creating America’s next big economic boom.

“The thing you have to remember about this country is it is, by design, supposed to be the place where the rest of the world converges. That is the American experiment. It is an experiment in multi-ethnic democracy like the world has never seen before.”

— Aarti Shahani

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Books Referenced:

Good Economics for Hard Times, by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares (A Memoir), by Aarti Shahani

The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public, by Lynn A. Stout

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A Promised Land, by Barack Obama

Guest Info:

Aarti Shahani is an award-winning NPR journalist and best-selling author. Her new show Art of Power (a co-production with WBEZ) is inspiring a generation of listeners to act, skillfully.Aarti spent her 20s organizing prisoners. When she pivoted to business journalism, she enjoyed a meteoric rise at NPR, as Silicon Valley correspondent. She’s guest-hosted NPR’s All Things Considered and KQED’s Forum.

Aarti’s first book, Here We Are (Macmillan), chronicles her unlikely journey from undocumented kid in Queens, New York to national voice on the frontlines of the most powerful industry on earth. An Amazon bestseller, the memoir has garnered critical acclaim.

“Riveting…a bruising critique of colonialism” (NPR); “heartfelt, galvanizing” (San Francisco Chronicle); “timely, bittersweet” (Publishers Weekly); “among the finest memoirs written in recent decades…a vivid, almost cinematic journey that is both beautiful and unforgettable” (Guy Raz, Host, How I Built This and TED Radio Hour).

Aarti’s reporting has received an award from the Society of Professional Journalists, an Edward R. Murrow Award, and an Investigative Reporters & Editors Award. Her very first newsroom was ProPublica.

She received her masters degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, with a full scholarship from the university and additional support from the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. She completed her bachelor’s degree in anthropology at the University of Chicago. She was among the youngest recipients of the Charles H. Revson Fellowship at Columbia University and is an alumna of A Better Chance, Inc.

Aarti lives in Oakland, California with her nephew. She loves storytelling and justice.

Dany Bahar is a senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution. He was previously a David M. Rubenstein Fellow at Brookings. An Israeli and Venezuelan economist, he is also an associate at the Harvard Center for International Development, and a research affiliate both at CESifo Group Munich and IZA Institute of Labor Economics. He also hosts the podcast “Economists on Zoom Getting Coffee.”

His research sits at the intersection of international economics and economic development. In particular, his academic research focuses on the diffusion of technology and knowledge within and across borders, as measured by productivity, structural transformation, exports, entrepreneurship, and innovation, among other factors. Lately, his research has focused on migrants and refugees as drivers of this process, alongside trade and capital flows.

His expertise on policy issues includes international migration, trade, and globalization more generally, as well as the understanding of economic trends in the global economy and in particular regions. His academic work has been published in top economic journals and he often contributes to leading media outlets in the United States and around the globe. He has worked and consulted for multilateral development organizations, such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Bahar holds a B.A. in systems engineering from Universidad Metropolitana (Caracas, Venezuela), an M.A. in economics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an M.P.A. in international development from Harvard Kennedy School, and a Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University.