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Migration for degrading work as an escape from humiliation

  • Stark, Oded
  • Fan, C. Simon

This paper develops a model of voluntary migration into degrading work. The essence of the model is a tension between two "bads:" that which arises from being relatively deprived at home, and that which arises from engaging in humiliating work away from home. Balancing between these two "bads" can give rise to an explicit, voluntary choice to engage in humiliating work. The paper identifies conditions under which a migrant will choose to engage in degrading work rather than being forced into it, to work abroad as a prostitute, say, rather than on a farm. The paper delineates the possible equilibria and finds that greater relative deprivation will make it more likely that the equilibrium outcome will be "engagement in prostitution." It is shown that under well specified conditions, every individual will work as a prostitute, yet every individual would be better off working on a farm. Put differently, when specific conditions are satisfied, there is a possibility of a "coordination failure:" if individuals believe that everyone else will choose to be a prostitute, this belief will be self-fulfilling. In this case, all the individuals choose to engage in prostitution, which renders each of them worse off. The paper discusses various policy implications. It is shown that a policy intervention (a crackdown on migrants' engagement in prostitution), if implemented strictly, can increase everyone's welfare, but when the policy is implemented loosely, cracking down on prostitution will only reduce individuals' welfare without reducing their engagement in prostitution.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 77 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (March)
Pages: 241-247

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:77:y:2011:i:3:p:241-247
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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  1. Matthew Rabin., 1991. "Cognitive Dissonance and Social Change," Economics Working Papers 91-180, University of California at Berkeley.
  2. Stark, Oded, 1984. "Rural-to-Urban Migration in LDCs: A Relative Deprivation Approach," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(3), pages 475-86, April.
  3. Stark, Oded & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1988. "Labour Migration as a Response to Relative Deprivation," MPRA Paper 21670, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Alberto Alesina & Nicola Fuchs-Schundeln, 2005. "Good bye Lenin (or not?): The effect of Communism on people's preferences," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2076, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  5. Postlewaite, Andrew, 1998. "The social basis of interdependent preferences," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 779-800, May.
  6. Assar Lindbeck & Sten Nyberg & Jšrgen W. Weibull, 1999. "Social Norms And Economic Incentives In The Welfare State," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 1-35, February.
  7. Stark, Oded & Fan, C. Simon, 2009. "A Theory of Migration as a Response to Occupational Stigma," Discussion Papers 55363, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
  8. Akerlof, George A, 1980. "A Theory of Social Custom, of Which Unemployment May be One Consequence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(4), pages 749-75, June.
  9. Christine Eibner & William N. Evans, 2005. "Relative Deprivation, Poor Health Habits, and Mortality," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(3).
  10. Fuchs-Schundeln, Nicola & Alesina, Alberto, 2007. "Good-Bye Lenin (Or Not?): The Effect of Communism on People's Preferences," Scholarly Articles 4553032, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  11. Stark, Oded & Taylor, J Edward, 1991. "Migration Incentives, Migration Types: The Role of Relative Deprivation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(408), pages 1163-78, September.
  12. Basu, Kaushik & Van, Pham Hoang, 1998. "The Economics of Child Labor," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 412-27, June.
  13. Stark, Oded & Micevska, Maja & Mycielski, Jerzy, 2009. "Relative poverty as a determinant of migration: Evidence from Poland," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 103(3), pages 119-122, June.
  14. Fan, C. Simon & Stark, Oded, 2007. "A social proximity explanation of the reluctance to assimilate," MPRA Paper 30940, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  15. Luigino Bruni & Luca Stanca, 2006. "Income Aspirations, Television and Happiness: Evidence from the World Values Survey," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(2), pages 209-225, 05.
  16. Oded Stark & J. Taylor, 1989. "Relative deprivation and international migration oded stark," Demography, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 1-14, February.
  17. David G. Blanchflower & Richard B. Freeman, 1997. "The Attitudinal Legacy of Communist Labor Relations," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 50(3), pages 438-459, April.
  18. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
  19. Michael A. Quinn, 2006. "Relative Deprivation, Wage Differentials and Mexican Migration," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(1), pages 135-153, 02.
  20. Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 10667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Podder, Nripesh, 1996. "Relative Deprivation, Envy and Economic Inequality," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(3), pages 353-76.
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