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Are Immigrants Favorably Self-Selected? An Economic Analysis

  • Barry R. Chiswick

This paper explores the theoretical issues and the empirical literature regarding the selectivity of migrants. Although the primary focus is on international migration, reference is made to internal migration and return migration. The theoretical analysis indicates a tendency toward the favorable self-selection (supply) of migrants for labor market success. The favorable selectivity is more intense the greater the out-of-pocket (direct) costs of migration and return migration, the greater the effect of the higher level of ability on lowering the costs of migration, and the smaller the relative skill differentials in the lower-wage origin relative to the higher-wage destination. Favorable selectivity for labor market success can be expected to be less intense for non-economic migrants, such as refugees, tied movers and ideological migrants, and for sojourners (short-term migrants) and illegal aliens. Among countries for whom entry restrictions are binding, the criteria for rationing immigration visas (demand) will influence the favorable selectivity of those who actually immigrate. Selection criteria can ration visas on one or more characteristics that enhance labor market earnings (e.g., education), or on characteristics that are seemingly independent of skill level (e.g., kinship ties). Under either criteria there will be a tendency for immigrants to be favorably selected, although this is less intense under the later criteria. The overall favorable selectivity of immigrants, therefore, depends on the favorable selectivity of the supply of immigrants and the criteria used to ration admissions.

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Paper provided by Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State in its series University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State with number 147.

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Date of creation: 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fth:chices:147
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Web page: http://research.chicagobooth.edu/economy/

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  1. George J. Borjas, 1991. "Immigration and Self-Selection," NBER Chapters, in: Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, pages 29-76 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Mincer, Jacob, 1978. "Family Migration Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 749-73, October.
  3. George J. Borjas, 1987. "Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants," NBER Working Papers 2248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Kossoudji, S.A. & Cobb-Clark, D.A., 1996. "Coming Out of the Shadows: Learning About Legal Status and Wages from the Legalized Population," CEPR Discussion Papers 347, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  5. Paul E. Gabriel & Susanne Schmitz, 1995. "Favorable Self-Selection and the Internal Migration of Young White Males in the United States," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(3), pages 460-471.
  6. Borjas, George J, 1985. "Assimilation, Changes in Cohort Quality, and the Earnings of Immigrants," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(4), pages 463-89, October.
  7. Schultz, Theodore W, 1975. "The Value of the Ability to Deal with Disequilibria," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 827-46, September.
  8. Robert J. LaLonde & Robert H. Topel, 1990. "The Assimilation of Immigrants in the U.S. Labor Markets," NBER Working Papers 3573, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Chiswick, Barry R, 1986. "Is the New Immigration Less Skilled Than the Old?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(2), pages 168-92, April.
  10. Chiswick, Barry R, 1978. "The Effect of Americanization on the Earnings of Foreign-born Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 897-921, October.
  11. Harriet Duleep & Mark Regets, 1997. "Measuring immigrant wage growth using matched CPS files," Demography, Springer, vol. 34(2), pages 239-249, May.
  12. Barry R. Chiswick, 1998. "Hebrew language usage: Determinants and effects on earnings among immigrants in Israel," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 11(2), pages 253-271.
  13. Borjas, George J, 1990. "Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 305-08, March.
  14. Duleep, Harriet Orcutt & Regets, Mark C., 1997. "The decline in immigrant entry earnings: Less transferable skills or lower ability?," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(Supplemen), pages 189-208.
  15. Katz, Eliakim & Stark, Oded, 1984. "Migration and Asymmetric Information: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 533-34, June.
  16. Chiswick, Barry R, 1977. "Sons of Immigrants: Are They at an Earnings Disadvantage?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(1), pages 376-80, February.
  17. Jasso, Guillermina & Rosenzweig, Mark R, 1990. "Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 298-304, March.
  18. Chris Robinson & Nigel Tomes, 1982. "Self-Selection and Interprovincial Migration in Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 15(3), pages 474-502, August.
  19. Schwartz, Aba, 1973. "Interpreting the Effect of Distance on Migration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(5), pages 1153-69, Sept.-Oct.
  20. DaVanzo, Julie, 1983. "Repeat Migration in the United States: Who Moves Back and Who Moves On?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(4), pages 552-59, November.
  21. Bailey, Adrian J, 1993. "Migration History, Migration Behavior and Selectivity," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer, vol. 27(4), pages 315-26, December.
  22. Schwartz, Aba, 1976. "Migration, Age, and Education," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages 701-19, August.
  23. Katz, Eliakim & Stark, Oded, 1987. "International Migration under Asymmetric Information," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(387), pages 718-26, September.
  24. Khan, Aliya Hashmi, 1997. "Post-migration investment in education by immigrants in the United States," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(Supplemen), pages 285-313.
  25. Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz, 1999. "Undocumented workers in the labor market: An analysis of the earnings of legal and illegal Mexican immigrants in the United States," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 91-116.
  26. Cobb-Clark, Deborah A, 1993. "Immigrant Selectivity and Wages: The Evidence for Women," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 986-93, September.
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