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How Important Is Selection? Experimental vs. Non-Experimental Measures of the Income Gains from Migration

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  • David McKenzie
  • John Gibson
  • Steven Stillman

Abstract

How much do migrants stand to gain in income from moving across borders? Answering this question is complicated by non-random selection of migrants from the general population, which makes it hard to obtain an appropriate comparison group of non-migrants. New Zealand allows a quota of Tongans to immigrate each year with a random ballot used to choose among the excess number of applicants. A unique survey conducted by the authors allows experimental estimates of the income gains from migration to be obtained by comparing the incomes of migrants to those who applied to migrate, but whose names were not drawn in the ballot, after allowing for the effect of non-compliance among some of those whose names were drawn. We also conducted a survey of individuals who did not apply for the ballot. Comparing this non-applicant group to the migrants enables assessment of the degree to which non-experimental methods can provide an unbiased estimate of the income gains from migration. We find evidence of migrants being positively selected in terms of both observed and unobserved skills. As a result, non-experimental methods other than instrumental variables are found to overstate the gains from migration by 20-82%, with difference-in-differences and bias-adjusted matching estimators performing best among the alternatives to instrumental variables. (JEL: J61, F22, C21) (c) 2010 by the European Economic Association.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Journal of the European Economic Association.

Volume (Year): 8 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (06)
Pages: 913-945

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:8:y:2010:i:4:p:913-945

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References

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  1. Guido W. Imbens, 2003. "Nonparametric Estimation of Average Treatment Effects under Exogeneity: A Review," NBER Technical Working Papers 0294, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  3. Dehejia, R.H. & Wahba, S., 1998. "Propensity Score Matching Methods for Non-Experimental Causal Studies," Discussion Papers 1998_02, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  4. Chris Robinson & Nigel Tomes, 1982. "Self-Selection and Interprovincial Migration in Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 15(3), pages 474-502, August.
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  7. Jeffrey Smith & Petra Todd, 2003. "Does Matching Overcome Lalonde's Critique of Nonexperimental Estimators?," University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity Working Papers 20035, University of Western Ontario, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity.
  8. Joop Hartog & Rainer Winkelmann, 2003. "Comparing migrants to non-migrants: The case of Dutch migration to New Zealand," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 16(4), pages 683-705, November.
  9. David Mckenzie & Hillel Rapoport, 2004. "Network Effects and the Dynamics of Migration and Inequality: Theory and Evidence from Mexico," Working Papers 2004-3, Department of Economics, Bar-Ilan University.
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  14. Dehejia, Rajeev, 2005. "Practical propensity score matching: a reply to Smith and Todd," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 355-364.
  15. Alberto Abadie & David Drukker & Jane Leber Herr & Guido W. Imbens, 2004. "Implementing matching estimators for average treatment effects in Stata," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 4(3), pages 290-311, September.
  16. Ashenfelter, Orley C, 1978. "Estimating the Effect of Training Programs on Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(1), pages 47-57, February.
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  1. Some new experiments trying to help more people emigrate from the Philippines
    by David McKenzie in Development Impact on 2013-09-16 13:21:58
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