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The Labor Market Effects of a Refugee Wave: Applying the Synthetic Control Method to the Mariel Boatlift

Listed author(s):
  • Giovanni Peri
  • Vasil Yasenov

We apply the synthetic control method to re-examine the wage and employment effect of the Mariel Boatlift, a large inflow of Cuban refugees to Miami in 1980. This method improves on previous studies by choosing a control group for Miami so as to best match its labor market features in the eight years before the Boatlift. Given the presence of significant measurement error for average city wages we emphasize the importance of using the May-ORG CPS sample rather than the March-CPS. The first includes a more reliable measure of weekly wages, has larger sample size and smaller measurement error. Analyzing wages and unemployment rates we find no significant departure between Miami and its control between 1980 and 1983. Using the March-CPS data, however, one could find negative wage effects in small subsamples after 1979 as pointed out in George Borjas (2015a). However those estimates are imprecise and very sensitive to the choice of sample and of the outcome variable.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 21801.

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Date of creation: Dec 2015
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21801
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  1. David Card, 1989. "The Impact of the Mariel Boatlift on the Miami Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 3069, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Card, David, 2001. "Immigrant Inflows, Native Outflows, and the Local Labor Market Impacts of Higher Immigration," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(1), pages 22-64, January.
  3. David Card, 2009. "Immigration and Inequality," NBER Working Papers 14683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Bodvarsson, Örn B. & Lewer, Joshua J. & Van den Berg, Hendrik, 2007. "Measuring Immigration's Effects on Labor Demand: A Reexamination of the Mariel Boatlift," IZA Discussion Papers 2919, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Gilles Duranton & J. V. Henderson & William C. Strange (ed.), 2015. "Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 5, number 5.
  6. Alberto Abadie & Javier Gardeazabal, 2003. "The Economic Costs of Conflict: A Case Study of the Basque Country," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 113-132, March.
  7. Christian Dustmann & Tommaso Frattini & Ian Preston, 2008. "The Effect of Immigration along the Distribution of Wages," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0803, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  8. Angrist, Joshua D. & Krueger, Alan B., 1999. "Empirical strategies in labor economics," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 23, pages 1277-1366 Elsevier.
  9. Giovanni Peri, 2014. "Do immigrant workers depress the wages of native workers?," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 1-42, May.
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