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The Self-Selection of Migrant Workers Revisited

  • Yashiv, Eran

    ()

    (Tel Aviv University)

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.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1094.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1094
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  1. Willis, Robert J., 1987. "Wage determinants: A survey and reinterpretation of human capital earnings functions," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 10, pages 525-602 Elsevier.
  2. Christian Dustmann & Costas Meghir, 2001. "Wages, experience and seniority," IFS Working Papers W01/01, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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  6. Robert J. Willis & Sherwin Rosen, 1978. "Education and Self-Selection," NBER Working Papers 0249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Sarit Cohen-Goldner & Zvi Eckstein, 2008. "Labor Mobility Of Immigrants: Training, Experience, Language, And Opportunities," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(3), pages 837-872, 08.
  8. Barry Chiswick, 1999. "Are Immigrants Favorably Self-Selected?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 181-185, May.
  9. Borjas, George J., 1999. "The economic analysis of immigration," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 28, pages 1697-1760 Elsevier.
  10. Klaus Zimmermann, 2007. "The economics of migrant ethnicity," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 20(3), pages 487-494, July.
  11. Heckman, James J & Sedlacek, Guilherme L, 1990. "Self-selection and the Distribution of Hourly Wages," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(1), pages S329-63, January.
  12. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  13. Oaxaca, Ronald L. & Ransom, Michael R., 1994. "On discrimination and the decomposition of wage differentials," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 5-21, March.
  14. Heckman, James J & Sedlacek, Guilherme, 1985. "Heterogeneity, Aggregation, and Market Wage Functions: An Empirical Model of Self-selection in the Labor Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1077-1125, December.
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  16. repec:ilo:ilowps:338944 is not listed on IDEAS
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