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Migration and mental health : evidence from a natural experiment

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  • Stillman, Steven
  • McKenzie, David
  • Gibson, John

Abstract

People migrate to improve their well-being, whether through an expansion of economic and social opportunities or a reduction in persecution. Yet a large literature suggests that migration can be a stressful process, with potentially negative impacts on mental health, reducing the net benefits of migration. However, to truly understand the effect of migration on mental health one must compare the mental health of migrants to what their mental health would have been had they stayed in their home country. The existing literature is not able to do this and typically settles for comparing the mental health of migrants to that of natives in the destination country, which takes no account of any pre-existing differences between these groups. This paper overcomes the selection problems affecting previous studies of the effect of migration on mental health by examining a migrant lottery program. New Zealand allows a quota of Tongans to immigrate each year with a lottery used to choose among the excess number of applicants. A unique survey conducted by the authors in these two countries allows experimental estimates of the mental health effects of migration to be obtained by comparing the mental health of migrants who were successful applicants in the lottery to the mental health of those who applied to migrate under the quota, but whose names were not drawn in the lottery. Migration is found to lead to improvements in mental health, particularly for women and those with poor mental health in their home country.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4138.

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Date of creation: 01 Feb 2007
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4138

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Keywords: Health Monitoring&Evaluation; Population Policies; Disease Control&Prevention; Mental Health; Gender and Health;

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  1. David McKenzie & John Gibson & Steven Stillman, 2010. "How Important Is Selection? Experimental vs. Non-Experimental Measures of the Income Gains from Migration," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(4), pages 913-945, 06.
  2. David McKenzie & John Gibson & Steven Stillman, 2006. "How Important is Selection? Experimental vs Non-experimental Measures of Income Gains from Migration," Working Papers in Economics 06/03, University of Waikato, Department of Economics.
  3. Das, Jishnu & Do, Quy-Toan & Friedman, Jed & McKenzie, David & Scott, Kinnon, 2007. "Mental health and poverty in developing countries: Revisiting the relationship," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 467-480, August.
  4. Joshua D. Angrist, 2003. "Treatment Effect Heterogeneity in Theory and Practice," NBER Working Papers 9708, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. James Heckman & Neil Hohmann & Jeffrey Smith & Michael Khoo, 2000. "Substitution And Dropout Bias In Social Experiments: A Study Of An Influential Social Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(2), pages 651-694, May.
  6. Victor Chernozhukov & Christian Hansen, 2005. "An IV Model of Quantile Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(1), pages 245-261, 01.
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