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On Migrant Selectivity


  • Eric R. Jensen

    () (Department of Economics, College of William and Mary)

  • Sarah M. Gale

    () (Accenture)

  • Paul E. Charpentier

    () (Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin)


Recent migrants to the United States have displayed lower earnings levels and a slower rate of earnings convergence with natives than previous immigrants. Borjas has argued that this reflects negative selectivity of immigrants; others, including Card, Chiquiar and Hanson, and Duleep and Regets, question this contention. Some of the ambiguity is due to measurement problems, with educational attainment (or its labor market consequences) used in place of unobserved migrant quality. We suggest that constraints in the supply of education in sending regions significantly limit the usefulness of educational attainment or related measures as proxies for migrant quality. We propose an alternative measure of migrant quality that incorporates education supply constraints, and present evidence of Mexican migrants self-selecting positively on ability.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric R. Jensen & Sarah M. Gale & Paul E. Charpentier, 2006. "On Migrant Selectivity," Working Papers 32, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwm:wpaper:32

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David Card, 2005. "Is the New Immigration Really so Bad?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(507), pages 300-323, November.
    2. Barry R. Chiswick, 1999. "Are Immigrants Favorably Self-Selected? An Economic Analysis," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 147, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
    3. Mark C. Regets & Harriet Orcutt Duleep, 1999. "Immigrants and Human-Capital Investment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 186-191, May.
    4. 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.
    5. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-1160, September.
    6. A. D. Roy, 1951. "Some Thoughts On The Distribution Of Earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 135-146.
    7. Barry Chiswick, 1999. "Are Immigrants Favorably Self-Selected?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 181-185, May.
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