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As the late historian Philip Curtin documented, from the beginning of urban life, millennia ago, trade typically involved networks of co-ethnic merchants living among aliens.Greeks, Phoenicians, trans-Saharan traders, the Hanseatic League, Jews, Armenians, overseas Chinese, and the Dutch and British East India Companies organized much of world trade through such networks.They could establish trust between exporters and importers because they could punish opportunistic behaviors.For a tight-knit community, reputational costs and other forms of social punishment transcend geography: not paying for goods might mean not being able to marry your children well.The relationship between diasporas and their homelands often encompasses a broad palette of sentiments, including distrust, resentment, envy, and enmity.Colloquially, people describe a bout of emigration as a period in which a country “lost” a certain proportion of its population.Many countries have substantial diasporas, but not many are proud of it.
Because of the cultural links they and their descendants have maintained with the mother country for more than 120 years, the city excels at advanced manufacturing of products that had not been invented when the migrants came.
This knowhow moves geographically in the brains of those who possess it and is transferred to others at work.
That is why ethnic cuisines diffuse through diasporas, not cookbooks.
India’s high-tech industries were to a large extent created by returning migrants and are deeply connected to the diaspora.
Israel is an entire country created by its diaspora, and its thriving high-tech sector, too, has benefited from sustained ties.
And it may be why economies with more diverse sets of migrants perform better.