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Labour Migration as a Response to Relative Deprivation


  • Stark, Oded
  • Yitzhaki, Shlomo


In this paper we define the relative deprivation of a person with income y as an increasing function of the percentage of individuals in the person's reference group whose income is larger than y. We obtain his satisfaction by adding up the marginal utilities of income over the range of income a person possesses. We model migration from one reference group to another as a response to relative deprivation and satisfaction: We say that a strong incentive to migrate exists if relative deprivation decreases while satisfaction rises with migration and that a weak incentive exists if the individual increases or decreases his satisfaction and deprivation at the same time by migrating. We derive conditions under which different incentives, weak or strong, hold for different individuals. We obtain the result that in general the richest individual in a society will not have a strong incentive to migrate but may have a weak incentive to migrate, whereas the poorest individual may have a strong incentive to migrate and also a weak incentive to migrate. Our analysis enables us to explain several perplexing migratory phenomena, identify income inequality as a distinct explanatory variable of migration and establish an incentive to migrate in situations where the utility-social welfare approach does not.

Suggested Citation

  • Stark, Oded & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1988. "Labour Migration as a Response to Relative Deprivation," MPRA Paper 21670, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:21670

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Frank, Robert H, 1985. "The Demand for Unobservable and Other Nonpositional Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 101-116, March.
    2. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1982. "Relative deprivation and economic welfare," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 99-113.
    3. Frank, Robert H, 1984. "Are Workers Paid Their Marginal Products?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 549-571, September.
    4. Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1983. "Ranking Income Distributions," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 50(197), pages 3-17, February.
    5. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1983. "On an Extension of the Gini Inequality Index," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 24(3), pages 617-628, October.
    6. Shlomo Yitzhaki, 1979. "Relative Deprivation and the Gini Coefficient," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(2), pages 321-324.
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:73:y:1979:i:01:p:103-112_15 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item


    Migration; Relative Deprivation;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration


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