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Rural-Urban Migration and Unemployment: Theory and Policy Implications

  • Zenou, Yves

We develop a regional model where, in the city, unemployment prevails because of too high (efficiency) wages, while, in the rural area, workers are paid at their marginal productivity. We characterize the steady-state equilibrium and show that it is unique. We then consider two policies: decreasing urban unemployment benefits and subsidizing urban employment. We find that decreasing the unemployment benefit in the city creates urban jobs and reduces rural-urban migration since new migrants have to spend some time unemployed before they can find a job in the city. On the other hand, raising employment subsidies increases urban employment but may also increase urban unemployment because it triggers more rural-urban migration. In this respect, the employment subsidy policy can backfire by raising rather than reducing urban unemployment.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8123.

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Date of creation: Nov 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8123
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  1. Lanjouw, Jean O. & Lanjouw, Peter, 2001. "The rural non-farm sector: issues and evidence from developing countries," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 26(1), pages 1-23, October.
  2. Blomqvist, A. G., 1978. "Urban job creation and unemployment in LDCs : Todaro vs. Harris and Todaro," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 3-18, March.
  3. Ortega, Javier, 2000. "Pareto-Improving Immigration in an Economy with Equilibrium Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(460), pages 92-112, January.
  4. Zarembka, Paul, 1970. "Labor Migration and Urban Unemployment: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 184-86, March.
  5. Arellano, Jose-Paulo, 1981. "Do more jobs in the modern sector increase urban unemployment?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 241-247, April.
  6. Daniel Nagin & James Rebitzer & Seth Sanders & Lowell Taylor, 2002. "Monitoring, Motivation and Management: The Determinants of Opportunistic Behavior in a Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 8811, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  8. Stark, Oded & Ranjan Gupta, Manash & Levhari, David, 1991. "Equilibrium urban unemployment in developing countries : Is migration the culprit?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 477-482, December.
  9. Fields, Gary S., 2005. "A welfare economic analysis of labor market policies in the Harris-Todaro model," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 127-146, February.
  10. Mark D. Partridge & Dan S. Rickman, 2008. "Distance From Urban Agglomeration Economies And Rural Poverty," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(2), pages 285-310.
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