A provocative new analysis of immigration's long-term effects on a nation's economy and culture.
Over the last two decades, as economists began using big datasets and modern computing power to reveal the sources of national prosperity, their statistical results kept pointing toward the power of culture to drive the wealth of nations. In The Culture Transplant, Garett Jones documents the cultural foundations of cross-country income differences, showing that immigrants import cultural attitudes from their homelands—toward saving, toward trust, and toward the role of government—that persist for decades, and likely for centuries, in their new national homes. Full assimilation in a generation or two, Jones reports, is a myth. And the cultural traits migrants bring to their new homes have enduring effects upon a nation's economic potential.
Built upon mainstream, well-reviewed academic research that hasn't pierced the public consciousness, this book offers a compelling refutation of an unspoken consensus that a nation's economic and political institutions won't be changed by immigration. Jones refutes the common view that we can discuss migration policy without considering whether migration can, over a few generations, substantially transform the economic and political institutions of a nation. And since most of the world's technological innovations come from just a handful of nations, Jones concludes, the entire world has a stake in whether migration policy will help or hurt the quality of government and thus the quality of scientific breakthroughs in those rare innovation powerhouses.
About the author
Garett Jones is Associate Professor of Economics at the Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University. He is the author of 10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less (Stanford, 2020) and Hive Mind: How Your Nation's IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own (Stanford, 2015).
"Immigrants change the countries they move to. The Culture Transplant is the very best book on this phenomenon, reflecting the continuing rise of Garett Jones as a thinker and writer of real import."
—Tyler Cowen, blogger, Marginal Revolution
"Synthesizing decades of new work in development economics, Garett Jones re-examines and rejects some of the core assumptions within the modern immigration debate. Defenders of open borders—utilitarians in particular—will have to seriously grapple with this novel and groundbreaking book."
—Hrishikesh Joshi, Bowling Green State University
"A unique and authoritative treatment of the deep persistence of cultural attributes that permeates across generations, and through migration, shapes institutions and contemporary outcomes. By focusing on people rather than places, Garett Jones provides a unique perspective on how we should think about the role of migration and diversity in understanding modern successes and failures. Jones's treatment of the literature is a master class in distilling rigorous research and presenting it in a breezy fashion that is hard to put down once you get started."
—Areendam Chanda, Louisiana State University
"The Culture Transplant is a good read, a brief dive into the intriguing question of why some places and some people are so much more prosperous than others."
—Robert VerBruggen, Wall Street Journal
Much of the literature on immigrant assimilation looks at easily observable questions about subsequent generations, such as whether they are learning English, graduating high school, and moving up the income ladder. Jones's book proves that these external accomplishments do not necessarily indicate assimilation at the deeper level of cultural values. This is of the greatest possible importance, because every day social science discovers further evidence that these cultural values, more than anything else, determine what a country's politics and its economy will look like in the future."
—Helen Andrews, The American Conservative
"Jones has written an excellent synopsis of the deep roots of culture and the persistent effects of these deep roots. The book is concise and easy to read, led by Jones's ability to decompose complicated ideas into easily understood examples and descriptions. Researchers and the public will gain valuable insights from The Cultural Transplant, a better understanding of the persistence of culture and longrunning factors that have placed countries on socioeconomic trajectories that have yielded vast differences in living standards across the world."
—C. Justin Cook, The Developing Economies
"Most economists agree that immigration—including illegal immigration—leads to greater economic growth and innovation. However, Jones argues that immigrants transplant their culture in the countries they move to, making the economies there similar to those in their home countries. Where immigrants come from and their home nation's technological development are critical to the economic and cultural impacts they have on the countries they move to."
—P. Z. McKay, CHOICE