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Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills and the Selection and Sorting of Migrants

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  • Aline Bütikofer
  • Giovanni Peri

Abstract

There is growing evidence that cognitive and noncognitive skills are strong predictors of the economic and social outcomes of individuals. In this paper, we analyze how they affect the migration decisions of individuals over their lifecycles. We use data that combine military enlistment and administrative records for the male population born in 1932 and 1933 in Norway. Records of interviews with a psychologist at age 20 allow us to construct an index of `sociability' and `adaptability' for each individual, as well as an index of cognitive ability, the intelligence quotient. We find that adaptability and cognitive ability have significant and positive impacts on the probability of an individual migrating out of his area, whether this involves rural-urban, long distance, or international migration. Adaptability has a particularly strong impact on migration for individuals with low cognitive skills, implying a strong positive selection of less educated migrants with respect to the (previously unobserved) adaptability skill. We also show that cognitive skills have a strong positive effect on sorting of migrants across destinations, whereas adaptability has no significant effect on sorting. This evidence suggests that adaptability reduces the psychological cost of migrating, whereas cognitive skills increase the monetary returns associated with migration.

Suggested Citation

  • Aline Bütikofer & Giovanni Peri, 2017. "Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills and the Selection and Sorting of Migrants," NBER Working Papers 23877, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23877
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel Crown & Masood Gheasi & Alessandra Faggian, 2020. "Interregional mobility and the personality traits of migrants," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 99(4), pages 899-914, August.
    2. Didier Fouarge & Merve Nezihe Özer & Philipp Seegers, 2019. "Personality traits, migration intentions, and cultural distance," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 98(6), pages 2425-2454, December.
    3. Bonacini, Luca & Gallo, Giovanni & Scicchitano, Sergio, 2021. "Sometimes you cannot make it on your own. How household background influences chances of success in Italy," GLO Discussion Paper Series 832, Global Labor Organization (GLO).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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