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Direct Evidence on Risk Attitudes and Migration

  • David A. Jaeger


    (College of William and Mary and IZA)

  • Holger Bonin

    (IZA and DIW)

  • Thomas Dohmen


    (IZA and DIW)

  • Armin Falk


    (University of Bonn, IZA, CEPR, and DIW)

  • David Huffman



  • Uwe Sunde


    (IZA, University of Bonn, CEPR, and DIW)

Geographic mobility is important for the functioning of labor markets because it brings labor resources to where they can be most efficiently used. It has long been hypothesized that individuals' migration propensities depend on their attitudes towards risk, but the empirical evidence, to the extent that it exists, has been indirect. In this paper, we use newly available data from the German Socio-Economic Panel to measure directly the relationship between migration propensities and attitudes towards risk. We find that individuals who are more willing to take risks are more likely to migrate between labor markets in Germany. This result is robust to stratifying by age, sex, education, national origin, and a variety of other demographic characteristics, as well as to the level of aggregation used to define geographic mobility. The effect is substantial relative to the unconditional migration propensity and compared to the conventional determinants of migration. We also find that being more willing to take risks is more important for the extensive than for the intensive margin of migration.

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Paper provided by Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London in its series CReAM Discussion Paper Series with number 0703.

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Date of creation: Mar 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:crm:wpaper:0703
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  1. Jaeger, David A. & Bonin, Holger & Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David B. & Sunde, Uwe, 2007. "Direct Evidence on Risk Attitudes and Migration," IZA Discussion Papers 2655, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Heitmueller, Axel, 2002. "Unemployment Benefits, Risk Aversion, and Migration Incentives," IZA Discussion Papers 610, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David B. & Sunde, Uwe & Schupp, Jürgen & Wagner, Gert G., 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," IZA Discussion Papers 1730, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Katz, Eliakim & Stark, Oded, 1986. "Labor Migration and Risk Aversion in Less Developed Countries," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(1), pages 134-49, January.
  5. Stark, Oded & Levhari, David, 1982. "On Migration and Risk in LDCs," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages 191-96, October.
  6. Peter Gottschalk & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1997. "Cross-National Comparisons of Earnings and Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 633-687, June.
  7. Dohmen, Thomas J. & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2012. "The intergenerational transmission of risk and trust attitudes," Munich Reprints in Economics 20051, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  8. Daveri, Francesco & Faini, Riccardo, 1999. "Where Do Migrants Go?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(4), pages 595-622, October.
  9. George J. Borjas, 2001. "Does Immigration Grease the Wheels of the Labor Market?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 32(1), pages 69-134.
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