IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Let's Be Selective about Migrant Self-Selection

  • Biavaschi, Costanza


    (University of Reading)

  • Elsner, Benjamin



Migrants are typically self-selected from the population of their home country. While a large literature has identified the causes of self-selection, we turn in this paper to the consequences. Using a combination of non-parametric econometrics and calibrated simulation, we quantify the impact of migrant self-selection on per-capita GDP in both sending and receiving countries. Two episodes of mass migration serve as examples: the migration from Norway to the US in the 1880s and the migration from Mexico to the US in the 2000s. We first estimate the degree of selection, and show that Norwegians were positively and Mexicans negatively selected. In a simulation exercise, we compare the economy under selective migration with a counterfactual in which the same number of migrants are neutrally selected. In both periods, we find virtually no aggregate effect in the US. Findings are different for the sending countries; migrant selection decreases Norwegian GDP by 0.3%, and increases Mexican GDP by almost 1%. While these effects may appear small, we demonstrate that the effect in Mexico is as large as the difference between no migration and the current level of migration.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7865.

in new window

Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7865
Contact details of provider: Postal:
IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page:

Order Information: Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Pedersen, Peder J. & Pytlikova, Mariola & Smith, Nina, 2004. "Selection or Network Effects? Migration Flows into 27 OECD Countries, 1990-2000," IZA Discussion Papers 1104, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Borjas, George J & Bratsberg, Bernt, 1996. "Who Leaves? The Outmigration of the Foreign-Born," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(1), pages 165-76, February.
  3. McKenzie, David & Gibson, John & Stillman, Steven, 2006. "How Important Is Selection? Experimental vs. Non-Experimental Measures of the Income Gains from Migration," IZA Discussion Papers 2087, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Giovanni Facchini & Cecilia Testa, 2010. "The rhetoric of closed borders: quotas, lax enforcement and illegal migration," Norface Discussion Paper Series 2010001, Norface Research Programme on Migration, Department of Economics, University College London.
  5. Orrenius, Pia M. & Zavodny, Madeline, 2000. "Self-selection among undocumented immigrants from Mexico," Working Papers 0005, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  6. Moraga, Jesús Fernández-Huertas & Rapoport, Hillel, 2011. "Tradable Immigration Quotas," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 1114, CEPREMAP.
  7. Pablo Ibarraran & Darren Lubotsky, 2005. "Mexican Immigration and Self-Selection: New Evidence from the 2000 Mexican Census," NBER Working Papers 11456, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Kanbur, Ravi & Rapoport, Hillel, 2003. "Migration Selectivity And The Evolution Of Spatial Inequality," Working Papers 127769, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
  9. Borjas, George J, 1987. "Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 531-53, September.
  10. David McKenzie & Hillel Rapoport, 2010. "Self-Selection Patterns in Mexico-U.S. Migration: The Role of Migration Networks," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 811-821, November.
  11. Jesúús Fernández-Huertas Moraga, 2011. "New Evidence on Emigrant Selection," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(1), pages 72-96, February.
  12. Frédéric Docquier & Joël Machado & Khalid Sekkat, 2015. "Efficiency Gains from Liberalizing Labor Mobility," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 117(2), pages 303-346, 04.
  13. Simone Bertoli & J. Fernandes-Huertas Moraga & F. Ortega, 2013. "Crossing the border: Self-selection, earnings and individual migration decisions," Post-Print halshs-00805507, HAL.
  14. Jesus Fernández-Huertas Moraga, 2013. "Understanding Different Migrant Selection Patterns in Rural and Urban Mexico," Working Papers 2013-02, FEDEA.
  15. Ran Abramitzky & Leah Platt Boustan & Katherine Eriksson, 2010. "Europe's tired, poor, huddled masses: Self-selection and economic outcomes in the age of mass migration," NBER Working Papers 15684, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Francesco Caselli & Wilbur John Coleman II, 2006. "The World Technology Frontier," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 499-522, June.
  17. Julian di Giovanni & Andrei Levchenko & Francesc Ortega, 2014. "A Global View of Cross-Border Migration," NBER Working Papers 20002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Djajić, Slobodan & Michael, Michael S. & Vinogradova, Alexandra, 2012. "Migration of skilled workers: Policy interaction between host and source countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 1015-1024.
  19. Cristian Bartolucci & Mathis Wagner & Claudia Villosio, 2013. "Who Migrates and Why?," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 333, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  20. Michéle V.K. Belot & Timothy J. Hatton, 2008. "Immigrant Selection in the OECD," CEPR Discussion Papers 571, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  21. Brücker, Herbert & Trübswetter, Parvati, 2004. "Do the Best Go West? An Analysis of the Self-Selection of Employed East-West Migrants in Germany," IZA Discussion Papers 986, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  22. Matloob Piracha & Florin Vadean, 2013. "Migrant educational mismatch and the labor market," Chapters, in: International Handbook on the Economics of Migration, chapter 9, pages 176-192 Edward Elgar Publishing.
  23. Augustin De Coulon & Matloob Piracha, 2003. "Self-selection and the performance of return migrants: the source country perspective," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20040, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  24. Iranzo, Susana & Peri, Giovanni, 2009. "Migration and trade: Theory with an Application to the Eastern- Western European Integration," Working Papers 2072/42865, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
  25. Xing, Chunbing, 2009. "Migration, Self-selection, and Income Distributions: Evidence from Rural and Urban China," MPRA Paper 17036, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  26. 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.
  27. Yeaple, Stephen Ross, 2005. "A simple model of firm heterogeneity, international trade, and wages," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 1-20, January.
  28. Carrington, William J & Detragiache, Enrica & Vishwanath, Tara, 1996. "Migration with Endogenous Moving Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 909-30, September.
  29. George J. Borjas & Stephen G. Bronars & Stephen J. Trejo, 1992. "Self-Selection and Internal Migration in the United States," NBER Working Papers 4002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Biavaschi, Costanza, 2016. "Recovering the counterfactual wage distribution with selective return migration," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 59-80.
  31. Gabriel J. Felbermayr & Wilhelm Kohler, 2007. "Immigration And Native Welfare," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 48(3), pages 731-760, 08.
  32. Bertoli, Simone, 2010. "The informational structure of migration decision and migrants self-selection," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 108(1), pages 89-92, July.
  33. Simone Bertoli & Hillel Rapoport, 2015. "Heaven's Swing Door: Endogenous Skills, Migration Networks, and the Effectiveness of Quality-Selective Immigration Policies," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 117(2), pages 565-591, 04.
  34. Akee, Randall K. Q., 2007. "Who Leaves and Who Returns? Deciphering Immigrant Self-Selection from a Developing Country," IZA Discussion Papers 3268, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  35. Williamson Jeffrey G., 1995. "The Evolution of Global Labor Markets since 1830: Background Evidence and Hypotheses," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 141-196, April.
  36. John Kennan, 2012. "Open Borders," NBER Working Papers 18307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  37. George J. Borjas & Jeffrey Grogger & Gordon H. Hanson, 2008. "Imperfect Substitution between Immigrants and Natives: A Reappraisal," NBER Working Papers 13887, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  38. J. William Ambrosini & Karin Mayr & Giovanni Peri & Dragos Radu, 2011. "The Selection of Migrants and Returnees: Evidence from Romania and Implications," NBER Working Papers 16912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7865. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.