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The self selection of migrant workers revisited

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  • Yashiv, Eran

Abstract

Work of low-skilled migrant workers from developing countries in developed economies is a growing phenomenon and a key political and economic issue. An extensive literature has found (for the most part) that these workers come from the lower part of the skill distribution. This paper revisits the issue, using a self-selection model, a unique data-set on migrant workers as well as on workers that chose not to migrate (‘stayers’), and direct estimation of the moments of the latent unobserved skill distributions. The main findings are that there are two dimensions to self-selection: in terms of observed skills, a substantial migration premium lures migrant workers, while very low returns to skills in the foreign economy deter skilled workers, leading to negative self-selection. In terms of unobservable skills, self-selection is found to be positive rather than negative. The latter finding entails substantial increases in mean wages and reduction in wage inequality, relative to random assignment and to the alternative of not migrating. The analysis also demonstrates that estimates of skill premia for migrants — an important issue in the immigration literature — are upward biased if selection is not accounted for. Relevant skills are multi-dimensional, hence assignments in this context are non-hierarchical.

Suggested Citation

  • Yashiv, Eran, 2004. "The self selection of migrant workers revisited," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19933, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:19933
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/19933/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Milo Bianchi, 2013. "Immigration Policy and Self-Selecting Migrants," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 15(1), pages 1-23, February.
    2. Jennifer Hunt, 2004. "Are migrants more skilled than non-migrants? Repeat, return, and same-employer migrants," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 37(4), pages 830-849, November.
    3. Zaiceva, Anzelika, 2006. "Self-Selection and the Returns to Geographic Mobility: What Can Be Learned from the German Reunification "Experiment"," IZA Discussion Papers 2524, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Rachel Sabates-Wheeler & Ricardo Sabates & Adriana Castaldo, 2008. "Tackling Poverty-migration Linkages: Evidence from Ghana and Egypt," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 87(2), pages 307-328, June.
    5. Olmo Silva, 2004. "Entrepreneurship: Can the Jack-of-All-Trades Attitude be Aquired?," CEP Discussion Papers dp0665, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    self-selection; migrant workers; skill premia; migration premium; unobservable skills; non-hierarchical sorting; wage inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • F2 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business

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