The rise of walls and fences worldwide & the 60th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall.

On August 13, 1961 the former German Democratic Republic commenced the construction of the #Berlin Wall, which separated West-Berlin from its surroundings until the destruction starting on November 9, 1989.

In her article published August 13, 2021 on “As migration is rising, so are border barriers“, author and data journalist Gianna-Carina Grün of DW (Deutsche Welle) writes on the occasion of this anniversary on walls and fences worldwide.

Her article refers also to the study of Victoria Vernon and Klaus F. Zimmermann (2021), “Walls and Fences: A Journey Through History and Economics”, in: Kourtit, K., Newbold, B., Nijkamp, P. and Partridge, M., The Economic Geography of Cross-Border Migration, Springer, Heidelberg et al., pp. 33-54, and other remarks both authors made in personal correspondence with Gianna Grün.

The contribution of economics professors Vernon and Zimmermann studies the motivations for building walls and fences through history and draws conclusions of their poor effectiveness. Walls and fences typically do not solve the problems and disappear in the long-run. But building border walls and fences has become popular among policymakers worldwide since the early 1990s as the authors show in their article.

Article abstract: Throughout history, border walls and fences have been built for defense, to claim land, to signal power, and to control migration. The costs of fortifications are large while the benefits are questionable. The recent trend of building walls and fences signals a paradox: In spite of the anti-immigration rhetoric of policymakers, there is little evidence that walls are effective in reducing terrorism, migration, and smuggling. Economic research suggests large benefits to open border policies in the face of increasing global migration pressures. Less restrictive migration policies should be accompanied by institutional changes aimed at increasing growth, improving security and reducing income inequality in poorer countries.

As Klaus F. Zimmermann, also the President of the Global Labor Organization (GLO), stated on the occasion of the 60th anniversary: “The fate of the Berlin Wall is a showcase for the global historical experience that walls and fences do not serve even their builders in the long-term.”

Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

The position is consistent with observations that restricting circular labor migration can be counterproductive. See Zimmermann‘s article on “Circular Migration“.

Zimmermann will present the joint article with Victoria Vernon on August 27, 2021 in a Special Academic Session on The Economic Geography of Cross-Border Migration as part of the 60th Annual Congress of the European Regional Science Association (ERSA), which is organized virtually from Bozen.


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