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Social Learning along International Migrant Networks


  • Yuan Tian
  • Maria Esther Caballero
  • Brian K. Kovak


We document the transmission of social distancing practices from the United States to Mexico along migrant networks during the early 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. Using data on pre-existing migrant connections between Mexican and U.S. locations and mobile-phone tracking data revealing social distancing behavior, we find larger declines in mobility in Mexican regions whose emigrants live in U.S. locations with stronger social distancing practices. We rule out confounding pre-trends and use a variety of controls and an instrumental variables strategy based on U.S. stay-at-home orders to rule out the potential influence of disease transmission and migrant sorting between similar locations. Given this evidence, we conclude that our findings represent the effect of information transmission between Mexican migrants living in the U.S. and residents of their home locations in Mexico. Our results demonstrate the importance of personal connections when policymakers seek to change fundamental social behaviors.

Suggested Citation

  • Yuan Tian & Maria Esther Caballero & Brian K. Kovak, 2020. "Social Learning along International Migrant Networks," NBER Working Papers 27679, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27679
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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