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A land of milk and honey with streets paved with gold: Do emigrants have over-optimistic expectations about incomes abroad?

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

Millions of people emigrate every year in search of better opportunities. Anecdotes of emigrants with over-optimistic expectations about the incomes they can earn abroad suggest excessive migration pressure. Yet there is almost no statistical evidence on how accurately emigrants predict the incomes that they will earn working abroad. In this paper, we combine a natural emigration experiment with unique survey data on would-be emigrants' probabilistic expectations about employment and incomes in the migration destination. Our procedure enables us to obtain moments and quantiles of the subjective distribution of expected earnings in the destination country. We find significant under-estimation of both unconditional and conditional labor earnings at all points in the distribution for males, but reasonably accurate expectations for females. This under-estimation appears driven in part by inaccurate information flows from extended family, by basing expectations on older cohorts, and by differences in the gender wage premium between source and origin countries.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Development Economics.

Volume (Year): 102 (2013)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 116-127

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Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:102:y:2013:i:c:p:116-127
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/devec

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  1. Omar Mahmoud, Toman & Trebesch, Christoph, 2010. "The economics of human trafficking and labour migration: Micro-evidence from Eastern Europe," Munich Reprints in Economics 19321, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Jeff Dominitz & Charles F. Manski, 1994. "Using Expectations Data to Study Subjective Income Expectations," NBER Working Papers 4937, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Orazio P. Attanasio, 2009. "Expectations and Perceptions in Developing Countries: Their Measurement and Their Use," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 87-92, May.
  4. Harris, John R & Todaro, Michael P, 1970. "Migration, Unemployment & Development: A Two-Sector Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 126-42, March.
  5. Delavande, Adeline & Gine, Xavier & McKenzie, David, 2009. "Measuring Subjective Expectations in Developing Countries: A Critical Review and New Evidence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4824, The World Bank.
  6. Jeff Dominitz, 1998. "Earnings Expectations, Revisions, And Realizations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(3), pages 374-388, August.
  7. Gibson, John & McKenzie, David, 2010. "The Economic Consequences of "Brain Drain" of the Best and Brightest: Microeconomic Evidence from Five Countries," IZA Discussion Papers 5124, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Ruth Vargas Hill, 2006. "The role of risk in shaping production decisions: an empirical analysis," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-049, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  9. Matthias Parey & Fabian Waldinger, 2007. "Studying Abroad and the Effect on International Labor Market Mobility: Evidence from the Introduction of Erasmus," CEE Discussion Papers 0086, Centre for the Economics of Education, LSE.
  10. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521029018 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. 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.
  12. Ruth Vargas Hill, 2010. "Liberalisation and Producer Price Risk: Examining Subjective Expectations in the Ugandan Coffee Market," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 19(4), pages 433-458, August.
  13. Kaivan Munshi, 2003. "Networks In The Modern Economy: Mexican Migrants In The U.S. Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(2), pages 549-599, May.
  14. Orazio Attanasio & Katja Kaufmann, 2009. "Educational Choices, Subjective Expectations, and Credit Constraints," NBER Working Papers 15087, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Luseno, Winnie K. & McPeak, John G. & Barrett, Christopher B. & Little, Peter D. & Gebru, Getachew, 2003. "Assessing the Value of Climate Forecast Information for Pastoralists: Evidence from Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(9), pages 1477-1494, September.
  16. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Joshua Angrist & Susan Dynarski & Thomas J. Kane & Parag Pathak, 2009. "Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston's Charters and Pilots," NBER Working Papers 15549, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Adeline Delavande & Hans-Peter Kohler, 2009. "Subjective expectations in the context of HIV/AIDS in Malawi," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 20(31), pages 817-875, June.
  18. 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.
  19. Charles F. Manski, 2004. "Measuring Expectations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1329-1376, 09.
  20. Joyce J. Chen, 2006. "Migration and Imperfect Monitoring: Implications for Intra-Household Allocation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 227-231, May.
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