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Distortions in the International Migrant Labor Market: Evidence from Filipino Migration and Wage Responses to Destination Country Economic Shocks


  • David McKenzie
  • Caroline Theoharides
  • Dean Yang


We use an original panel dataset of migrant departures from the Philippines to identify the responsiveness of migrant numbers and wages to GDP shocks in destination countries. We find a large, significant response of migrant numbers to GDP shocks at destination, but no significant wage response. This is consistent with binding minimum wages for migrant labor. This result implies that labor market imperfections that make international migration attractive also make migrant flows more sensitive to global business cycles. Difference-in-differences analysis of a minimum wage change for maids confirms that minimum wages bind and demand is price sensitive without these distortions.

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  • David McKenzie & Caroline Theoharides & Dean Yang, 2014. "Distortions in the International Migrant Labor Market: Evidence from Filipino Migration and Wage Responses to Destination Country Economic Shocks," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(2), pages 49-75, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:6:y:2014:i:2:p:49-75 Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.6.2.49

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John Gibson & David McKenzie & Steven Stillman, 2013. "Accounting for Selectivity and Duration-Dependent Heterogeneity When Estimating the Impact of Emigration on Incomes and Poverty in Sending Areas," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61(2), pages 247-280.
    2. Gary Solon & Robert Barsky & Jonathan A. Parker, 1994. "Measuring the Cyclicality of Real Wages: How Important is Composition Bias?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(1), pages 1-25.
    3. Michael A. Clemens, 2011. "Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 83-106, Summer.
    4. Dean Yang, 2008. "International Migration, Remittances and Household Investment: Evidence from Philippine Migrants' Exchange Rate Shocks," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(528), pages 591-630, April.
    5. 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.
    6. Edwards, Alejandra Cox & Ureta, Manuelita, 2003. "International migration, remittances, and schooling: evidence from El Salvador," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 429-461, December.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration


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