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When is "Too Much" Inequality Not Enough? The Selection of Israeli Emigrants

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  • Gould, Eric D
  • Moav, Omer

Abstract

This paper examines the effect of inequality on the incentives to emigrate according to a person’s observable and unobservable skills. Borjas (1987) shows that higher skilled individuals are more likely to emigrate than lower skilled individuals when the returns to skill are higher in a potential foreign destination. Building on this framework, we develop a model which shows that this prediction holds for observable skills like education which are "general" in the sense of being easily transferable to another country. However, we show that the relationship between unobservable skills and the probability of emigrating is an inverse U-shape - since unobservable skills are a mixture of "general skills" and "country-specific skills" which are not easily transferable. We examine the predictions of our model with a unique data set containing information on who emigrates from Israel between 1995 and 2004, combined with a full set of demographic and labor market variables for both movers and stayers in 1995. By exploiting differences between Israel and the United States in the returns to observable (education) and unobservable skills across different sectors (industries and occupations), we find strong evidence that a lower return to unobservable skills in Israel versus the US entices higher ability Israelis to leave the country. Also, we find that virtually the entire positive relationship between education and the rate of emigration would be eliminated if the returns to education were increased in Israel to US levels within each industry. Overall, the results strongly support our model and the importance of differentiating between general and "country-specific" skills in the analysis of immigrant selection.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 6955.

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Date of creation: Sep 2008
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6955

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Related research

Keywords: country-specific skills; emigration; general skills; income inequality; return to education;

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References

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  1. Barry Chiswick, 1999. "Are Immigrants Favorably Self-Selected?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 181-185, May.
  2. Daniel Chiquiar & Gordon H. Hanson, 2002. "International Migration, Self-Selection, and the Distribution of Wages: Evidence from Mexico and the United States," NBER Working Papers 9242, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David McKenzie & Hillel Rapoport, 2007. "Self-selection patterns in Mexico-U.S. migration: The role of migration networks," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0701, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  4. Pia Orrenius & Madeline Zavodny, 2000. "Self-selection among undocumented immigrants from Mexico," Working Papers 0005, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  5. Ben-David, Dan, 2008. "Brain Drained: A Tale of Two Countries," CEPR Discussion Papers 6717, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Randall Akee, 2010. "Who Leaves? Deciphering Immigrant Self-Selection from a Developing Country," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58(2), pages 323-344, 01.
  7. Pablo Ibarraran & Darren Lubotsky, 2005. "Mexican Immigration and Self-Selection: New Evidence from the 2000 Mexican Census," NBER Working Papers 11456, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Mountford, A., 1995. "Can a brain drain be good for growth?," Discussion Paper 1995-8, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  9. Borjas, George J., 1999. "The economic analysis of immigration," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1697-1760 Elsevier.
  10. Grogger, Jeffrey & Hanson, Gordon H., 2011. "Income maximization and the selection and sorting of international migrants," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 42-57, May.
  11. Gordon Dahl, 1997. "Mobility and the Returns to Education: Testing A Roy Model With Multiple Markets," Working Papers 760, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  12. Ran Abramitzky, 2008. "The Limits of Equality: Insights from the Israeli Kibbutz," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(3), pages 1111-1159, August.
  13. Cobb-Clark, Deborah A, 1993. "Immigrant Selectivity and Wages: The Evidence for Women," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 986-93, September.
  14. Borjas, George J. & Bronars, Stephen G. & Trejo, Stephen J., 1992. "Self-selection and internal migration in the United States," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 159-185, September.
  15. Ran Abramitzky, 2008. "The Limits of Equality: Insights from the Israeli Kibbutz," Discussion Papers 07-048, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  16. John M. Abowd & Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Immigration, Trade and the Labor Market," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abow91-1.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Platt Boustan & Katherine Eriksson, 2010. "Europe's tired, poor, huddled masses: Self-selection and economic outcomes in the age of mass migration," NBER Working Papers 15684, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Clemens, Michael A. & Montenegro, Claudio E. & Pritchett, Lant, 2008. "The place premium : wage differences for identical workers across the US border," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4671, The World Bank.
  3. Christian Dustmann & Itzhak Fadlon & Yoram Weiss, 2010. "Return Migration, Human Capital Accumulation and the Brain Drain," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1013, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  4. Mountford, Andrew & Rapoport, Hillel, 2011. "The brain drain and the world distribution of income," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 4-17, May.
  5. Christian Dustmann & Albrecht Glitz, 2011. "Migration and Education," Norface Discussion Paper Series 2011011, Norface Research Programme on Migration, Department of Economics, University College London.
  6. Rienzo, Cinzia, 2008. "Residual Wage Inequality and Immigration in the UK and the US," MPRA Paper 30279, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Mar 2011.

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