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The Place Premium: Wage Differences for Identical Workers across the U.S. Border

Author

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  • Michael Clemens

    ()

  • Claudio Montenegro
  • Lant Pritchett

Abstract

We compare the wages of workers inside the United States to the wages of observably identical workers outside the United States—controlling for country of birth, country of education, years of education, work experience, sex, and ruralurban residence. This is made possible by new and uniquely rich microdata on the wages of over two million individual formal-sector wage-earners in 43 countries. We then use five independent methods to correct these estimates for unobserved differences between the productivity of migrants and non-migrants, as well as for the wage effects of natural barriers to international movement in the absence of policy barriers. We also introduce a selection model to estimate how migrants’ wage gains depend on their position in the distribution of unobserved wage determinants both at the origin and at the destination, as well as the relationship between these positions. For example, in the median wage gap country, a typical Bolivian-born, Bolivianeducated, prime-age urban male formal-sector wage worker with moderate schooling makes 4 times as much in the US as in Bolivia. Following all adjustments for selectivity and compensating differentials we estimate that the wages of a Bolivian worker of equal intrinsic productivity, willing to move, would be higher by a factor of 2.7 solely by working in the United States. While this is the median, this ratio is as high as 8.4 (for Nigeria). We document that (1) for many countries, the wage gaps caused by barriers to movement across international borders are among the largest known forms of wage discrimination; (2) these gaps represent one of the largest remaining price distortions in any global market; and (3) these gaps imply that imply allowing labor mobility can reduce a given household’s poverty to a much greater degree than most known in situ antipoverty interventions.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Clemens & Claudio Montenegro & Lant Pritchett, 2008. "The Place Premium: Wage Differences for Identical Workers across the U.S. Border," Working Papers 148, Center for Global Development.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:148
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    wage; migration; economic development;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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