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Migrant Networks and Trade: The Vietnamese Boat People as a Natural Experiment


  • Christopher PARSONS

    (University of Oxford)

  • Pierre-Louis VÉZINA

    (University of Oxford)


We provide cogent evidence for the causal pro-trade effect of migrants and in doing so establish an important link between migrant networks and long-run economic development. To this end, we exploit a unique event in human history, the exodus of the Vietnamese Boat People to the US. This episode represents an ideal natural experiment as the large immigration shock, the first wave of which comprised refugees exogenously allocated across the US, occurred over a twentyyear period during which time the US imposed a complete trade embargo on Vietnam. Following the lifting of trade restrictions in 1994, the share of US exports going to Vietnam was higher and more diversified in those US States with larger Vietnamese populations, themselves the result of larger refugee inflows 20 years earlier.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher PARSONS & Pierre-Louis VÉZINA, 2014. "Migrant Networks and Trade: The Vietnamese Boat People as a Natural Experiment," Working Papers DP-2014-09, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA).
  • Handle: RePEc:era:wpaper:dp-2014-09

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James A. Dunlevy, 2006. "The Influence of Corruption and Language on the Protrade Effect of Immigrants: Evidence from the American States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(1), pages 182-186, February.
    2. Murat Genc & Masood Gheasi & Peter Nijkamp & Jacques Poot, 2012. "The impact of immigration on international trade: a meta-analysis," Chapters,in: Migration Impact Assessment, chapter 9, pages 301-337 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Lauren Cohen & Umit G. Gurun & Christopher J. Malloy, 2012. "Resident Networks and Firm Trade," NBER Working Papers 18312, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Anna Piil Damm & Christian Dustmann, 2014. "Does Growing Up in a High Crime Neighborhood Affect Youth Criminal Behavior?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(6), pages 1806-1832, June.
    5. Treb Allen, 2014. "Information Frictions in Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82, pages 2041-2083, November.
    6. Matz Dahlberg & Karin Edmark & Heléne Lundqvist, 2012. "Ethnic Diversity and Preferences for Redistribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 120(1), pages 41-76.
    7. Maurice Kugler & Hillel Rapoport, 2011. "Migration, FDI and the Margins of Trade," CID Working Papers 222, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    8. Kugler, Maurice & Rapoport, Hillel, 2007. "International labor and capital flows: Complements or substitutes?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 155-162, February.
    9. Chen, Bo & Jacks, David S., 2012. "Trade, variety, and immigration," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 117(1), pages 243-246.
    10. Abadie, Alberto & Diamond, Alexis & Hainmueller, Jens, 2010. "Synthetic Control Methods for Comparative Case Studies: Estimating the Effect of California’s Tobacco Control Program," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 105(490), pages 493-505.
    11. Brian, McCaig, 2011. "Exporting out of poverty: Provincial poverty in Vietnam and U.S. market access," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 102-113, September.
    12. James E. Rauch & Vitor Trindade, 2002. "Ethnic Chinese Networks In International Trade," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 116-130, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael A. Clemens, 2016. "Losing our minds? New research directions on skilled emigration and development," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 37(7), pages 1227-1248, October.
    2. Kugler, Maurice & Levintal, Oren & Rapoport, Hillel, 2013. "Migration and Cross-Border Financial Flows," IZA Discussion Papers 7548, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Costanza Biavaschi & Michal Burzynski & Benjamin Elsner & Joël Machado, 2016. "The Gain from the Drain - Skill-biased Migration and Global Welfare," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1624, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    4. Graneli, Anna & Lodefalk, Magnus, 2014. "Temporary Expats for Export: Firm-Level Evidence," Working Papers 2014:4, Örebro University, School of Business.
    5. Burchardi, Konrad B. & Chaney, Thomas & Hassan, Tarek, 2015. "Migrants, Ancestors, and Investments," CEPR Discussion Papers 11025, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Toman Barsbai & Hillel Rapoport & Andreas Steinmayr & Christoph Trebesch, 2017. "The Effect of Labor Migration on the Diffusion of Democracy: Evidence from a Former Soviet Republic," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 36-69, July.
    7. Magnus Lodefalk, 2016. "Temporary expats for exports: micro-level evidence," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 152(4), pages 733-772, November.
    8. Fuchs-Schündeln, N. & Hassan, T.A., 2016. "Natural Experiments in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    9. Bratti, Massimiliano & De Benedictis, Luca & Santoni, Gianluca, 2018. "Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Diasporas and Exports," IZA Discussion Papers 11280, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Michele Battisti & Gabriel Felbermayr & Panu Poutvaara, 2015. "Einwanderung: Welchen Nutzen hat die einheimische Bevölkerung?," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 68(18), September.
    11. Bahar, Dany & Hillel Rapoport, 2013. "Migration, knowledge diffusion and the comparative advantage of nations," Working Paper 97706, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    12. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-01134465 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    : Migrant Networks; US Exports; Natural Experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration

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