A Theory of Migration as a Response to Occupational Stigma
Drawing on the literature of occupational status and social distance, a theory is developed of labor migration that is prompted by a desire to avoid “social humiliation.” A closed-economy general equilibrium model that incorporates occupational status and examines the interaction between the goods market and the labor market is constructed. This framework is then extended from a closed, single economy to an open economy setting in a world that consists of two countries or two regions. It is shown that as long as migration can reduce humiliation sufficiently, migration will occur even between two identical economies. Hence, a new model of migration is presented in which migration arises from a wish to reap social exposure gains. The model shows that migration increases the number of individuals who choose to perform degrading jobs and that consequently, migration lowers the price of the good produced in the sector that is associated with low social status. Moreover, the more migration reduces the “humiliation” of performing degrading jobs, the larger the number of individuals who end up choosing such jobs, and the lower the wage in that sector. Finally, a welfare analysis is conducted, comparing the level of wellbeing in an open economy with the level of wellbeing in a closed economy. It is shown that the greater an individual’s aversion to performing degrading jobs, the more likely it is that he will experience a welfare gain when the economy opens up.
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