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Testing Classic Theories of Migration in the Lab

Author

Listed:
  • Catia Batista

    (Catia Batista)

  • David McKenzie

    (David McKenzie)

Abstract

We test the predictions of different classic migration theories by using incentivized laboratory experiments to investigate how potential migrants decide between working in different destinations. We test theories of income maximization, migrant skill-selection, and multidestination choice as we vary migration costs, liquidity constraints, risk, social benefits, and incomplete information. We show the standard income maximization model of migration with selection on observed and unobserved skills leads to a much higher migration rate and more negative skill-selection than is obtained when migration decisions take place under more realistic assumptions. Second, we investigate whether the independence of irrelevant alternatives (IIA) assumption holds. We find it holds for most people when decisions just involve wages, costs, and liquidity constraints. However, once we add a risk of unemployment and incomplete information, IIA no longer holds for about 20 percent of our sample.

Suggested Citation

  • Catia Batista & David McKenzie, 2021. "Testing Classic Theories of Migration in the Lab," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 2123, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  • Handle: RePEc:crm:wpaper:2123
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Emily A. Beam & David McKenzie & Dean Yang, 2016. "Unilateral Facilitation Does Not Raise International Labor Migration from the Philippines," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64(2), pages 323-368.
    2. Catherine C. Eckel & Philip J. Grossman, 2002. "Sex Differences and Statistical Stereotyping in Attitudes Toward Financial Risk," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-03, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    3. Nava Ashraf & Diego Aycinena & Claudia Martínez A. & Dean Yang, 2015. "Savings in Transnational Households: A Field Experiment among Migrants from El Salvador," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(2), pages 332-351, May.
    4. Catia Batista & Gaia Narciso, 2018. "Migrant Remittances and Information Flows: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 32(1), pages 203-219.
    5. Michael A. Clemens & Claudio E. Montenegro & Lant Pritchett, 2019. "The Place Premium: Bounding the Price Equivalent of Migration Barriers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 101(2), pages 201-213, May.
    6. Dustmann, Christian (ed.), 2015. "Migration: Economic Change, Social Challenge," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198729624.
    7. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2011. "Individual Risk Attitudes: Measurement, Determinants, And Behavioral Consequences," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 522-550, June.
    8. Michel Beine & Michel Bierlaire & Frédéric Docquier, 2021. "New York, Abu Dhabi, London or Stay at Home? Using a Cross-Nested Logit Model to Identify Complex Substitution Patterns in Migration," LISER Working Paper Series 2021-01, Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER).
    9. David McKenzie & John Gibson & Steven Stillman, 2010. "How Important Is Selection? Experimental vs. Non-Experimental Measures of the Income Gains from Migration," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(4), pages 913-945, June.
    10. Bertoli, Simone & Moraga, Jesús Fernández-Huertas & Guichard, Lucas, 2020. "Rational inattention and migration decisions," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C).
    11. McKenzie, David & Gibson, John & Stillman, Steven, 2013. "A land of milk and honey with streets paved with gold: Do emigrants have over-optimistic expectations about incomes abroad?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 116-127.
    12. Gibson, John & McKenzie, David & Rohorua, Halahingano & Stillman, Steven, 2019. "The long-term impact of international migration on economic decision-making: Evidence from a migration lottery and lab-in-the-field experiments," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 99-115.
    13. Daniel Chiquiar & Gordon H. Hanson, 2005. "International Migration, Self-Selection, and the Distribution of Wages: Evidence from Mexico and the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(2), pages 239-281, April.
    14. Uri Gneezy & Jan Potters, 1997. "An Experiment on Risk Taking and Evaluation Periods," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 631-645.
    15. Tijan L. Bah & Cátia Batista, 2018. "Understanding willingness to migrate illegally: Evidence from a lab in the field experiment," NOVAFRICA Working Paper Series wp1803, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Nova School of Business and Economics, NOVAFRICA.
    16. Carlos Vargas-Silva (ed.), 2012. "Handbook of Research Methods in Migration," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 14062.
    17. Gordon B. Dahl, 2002. "Mobility and the Return to Education: Testing a Roy Model with Multiple Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(6), pages 2367-2420, November.
    18. Grogger, Jeffrey & Hanson, Gordon H., 2011. "Income maximization and the selection and sorting of international migrants," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 42-57, May.
    19. George J. Borjas, 2021. "Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Foundational Essays in Immigration Economics, chapter 4, pages 69-91, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    Cited by:

    1. Jules Gazeaud & Eric Mvukiyehe & Olivier Sterck, 2019. "Cash Transfers and Migration: Theory and Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial," CSAE Working Paper Series 2019-16, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    2. Tijan L. Bah & Cátia Batista, 2018. "Understanding willingness to migrate illegally: Evidence from a lab in the field experiment," NOVAFRICA Working Paper Series wp1803, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Nova School of Business and Economics, NOVAFRICA.
    3. Didier Ruedin, 2021. "Decision-Making Under Uncertainty: African Migrants in the Spotlight," Social Inclusion, Cogitatio Press, vol. 9(1), pages 182-185.
    4. Catia Batista & Pedro C. Vicente, 2018. "Is mobile money changing rural Africa? Evidence from a field experiment," NOVAFRICA Working Paper Series wp1805, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Nova School of Business and Economics, NOVAFRICA.
    5. Kerstin Mitterbacher & Stefan Palan & Jürgen Fleiß, 2021. "Labor market choices of migrants and redistributive policies," Working Paper Series, Social and Economic Sciences 2021-02, Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, Karl-Franzens-University Graz.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Migrant Selection; Destination Choice; Lab Experiment; IIA;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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