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Migration and The Equilibrium Prevalence of Infectious Diseases


  • Mesnard, Alice
  • Seabright, Paul


This paper models how migration both influences and responds to differences in disease prevalence between cities, regions and countries, and show how the possibility of migration away from high-prevalence areas affects long-run steady state disease prevalence. We develop a dynamic framework where both migration and prevention behaviour respond to the prevalence of disease, to the costs of migration and of treatment, and to current and anticipated health regulations. The model treats disease prevalence as an endogenous consequence of other features of the areas concerned, notably their economic endowments. It explores how pressure for migration in response to differing equilibrium levels of disease prevalence causes countervailing differences in city characteristics, notably in land rents. Competition for scarce housing in low-prevalence areas can create pressures for segregation, with disease concentrated in high-prevalence "sinks". We show that multiple steady states may exist and explore their comparative static properties. In particular we find that migration can have positive health benefits, in that reductions in barriers to migration can reduce steady-state disease incidence in low-prevalence areas while having no impact on prevalence in high-prevalence areas. This may have important consequences for policy; in some circumstances, public health measures may need to avoid discouraging migration away from high-disease areas.

Suggested Citation

  • Mesnard, Alice & Seabright, Paul, 2008. "Migration and The Equilibrium Prevalence of Infectious Diseases," CEPR Discussion Papers 6651, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6651

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    2. Ellickson, Bryan, 1971. "Jurisdictional Fragmentation and Residential Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(2), pages 334-339, May.
    3. Mark Gersovitz & Jeffrey S. Hammer, 2004. "The Economical Control of Infectious Diseases," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(492), pages 1-27, January.
    4. Raquel Fernandez & Richard Rogerson, 1996. "Income Distribution, Communities, and the Quality of Public Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(1), pages 135-164.
    5. Roland Bénabou, 1996. "Equity and Efficiency in Human Capital Investment: The Local Connection," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(2), pages 237-264.
    6. Geoffard, Pierre-Yves & Philipson, Tomas, 1996. "Rational Epidemics and Their Public Control," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 37(3), pages 603-624, August.
    7. Mark Gersovitz & Jeffrey S. Hammer, 2003. "Infectious Diseases, Public Policy, and the Marriage of Economics and Epidemiology," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 18(2), pages 129-157.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mesnard, Alice & Seabright, Paul, 2008. "Escaping Epidemics Through Migration? Quarantine Measures under Asymmetric Information about Infection Risk," IDEI Working Papers 521, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
    2. Mesnard, Alice & Seabright, Paul, 2009. "Escaping epidemics through migration? Quarantine measures under incomplete information about infection risk," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 931-938, August.

    More about this item


    development; infectious diseases; migration; public health; quarantine;

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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