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Who Leaves? Deciphering Immigrant Self-Selection from a Developing Country


  • Randall Akee


Abstract: Using a novel data set from a developing country, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), I analyze an emigration flow to the United States that has no legal barriers to entry and contains detailed information on the immigrant at home and in the United States. I find that highly educated workers (relative to the home country average) have the highest likelihood of migrating from the FSM to the United States. I also compare the premigration wages for the migrants and an observationally equivalent matched nonmigrant group and find that there is a positive and statistically significant difference between the two groups, indicating that immigrants are also positively selected on unobserved characteristics. The observed selection is consistent with the relatively large differences in home country and destination skill prices at the highest skill levels. Information on the immigrants' characteristics before migration is central to my analysis of determining the nature of immigrant self-selection on both observable and unobservable characteristics. These results are informative of the self-selection of immigration from a small developing country when legal immigration restrictions are removed. (c) 2010 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation

  • Randall Akee, 2010. "Who Leaves? Deciphering Immigrant Self-Selection from a Developing Country," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58(2), pages 323-344, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:ecdecc:v:58:y:2010:i:2:p:323-344

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Herbert Brücker & Parvati Trübswetter, 2007. "Do the best go west? An analysis of the self-selection of employed East-West migrants in Germany," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 34(4), pages 371-395, September.
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    7. Orrenius, Pia M. & Zavodny, Madeline, 2005. "Self-selection among undocumented immigrants from Mexico," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 215-240, October.
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    9. Hughes, Gordon & McCormick, Barry, 1994. "Did Migration in the 1980s Narrow the North-South Divide?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 61(244), pages 509-527, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Emmanuelle Auriol & Alice Mesnard, 2016. "Sale of Visas: a Smuggler's Final Song?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 83(332), pages 646-678, October.
    2. Gordon Hanson & Chen Liu & Craig McIntosh, 2017. "The Rise and Fall of U.S. Low-Skilled Immigration," NBER Working Papers 23753, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. repec:bin:bpeajo:v:48:y:2017:i:2017-01:p:83-168 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Catia Batista & Aitor Lacuesta & Pedro Vicente, 2009. "Micro evidence of the brain gain hypothesis: The case of Cape Verde," Working Papers 0902, Banco de España;Working Papers Homepage.
    5. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Platt Boustan & Katherine Eriksson, 2012. "Europe's Tired, Poor, Huddled Masses: Self-Selection and Economic Outcomes in the Age of Mass Migration," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(5), pages 1832-1856, August.
    6. Gharad Bryan & Shyamal Chowdhury & Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, 2014. "Underinvestment in a Profitable Technology: The Case of Seasonal Migration in Bangladesh," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82, pages 1671-1748, September.
    7. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Platt Boustan, 2016. "Immigration in American Economic History," NBER Working Papers 21882, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Batista, Catia & Lacuesta, Aitor & Vicente, Pedro C., 2007. "Brain Drain or Brain Gain? Micro Evidence from an African Success Story," IZA Discussion Papers 3035, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Batista, Catia & McIndoe Calder, Tara & Vicente, Pedro C., 2014. "Return Migration, Self-Selection and Entrepreneurship in Mozambique," IZA Discussion Papers 8195, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Batista, Catia & Lacuesta, Aitor & Vicente, Pedro C., 2012. "Testing the ‘brain gain’ hypothesis: Micro evidence from Cape Verde," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 32-45.
    11. Gharad Bryan & Shyamal Chowdhury & A. Mushfiq Mobarak, 2011. "Seasonal Migration and Risk Aversion," Working Papers id:4650, eSocialSciences.
    12. Bensassi, Sami & Jabbour, Liza, 2017. "Return Migration and Entrepreneurial Success: An Empirical Analysis for Egypt," GLO Discussion Paper Series 98, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    13. Gould, Eric D & Moav, Omer, 2008. "When is "Too Much" Inequality Not Enough? The Selection of Israeli Emigrants," CEPR Discussion Papers 6955, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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