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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. Yet a large literature suggests that migration can be a stressful process, with potentially negative impacts on mental health. However, to truly understand the effect of migration one must compare the mental health of migrants to what their mental health would be had they stayed in their home country. The existing literature is not able to do this. New Zealand allows a quota of Tongans to immigrate each year with a random ballot used to choose amongst the excess number of applicants. Experimental estimates of the mental health effects of migration are obtained by comparing the mental health of migrants who were successful applicants in the random ballot to the mental health of those who applied to migrate under the quota, but whose names were not drawn. Migration is found to lead to improvements in mental health, particularly for women and those with poor mental health.

Suggested Citation

  • Stillman, Steven & McKenzie, David & Gibson, John, 2009. "Migration and mental health: Evidence from a natural experiment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 677-687, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:28:y:2009:i:3:p:677-687
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(2), pages 651-694.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Migration Mental health Natural experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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