IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Clandestine Migrants: Do the High-Skilled Return Home First?


  • Nicola Coniglio

    () (Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH) and Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche, University of Bari)

  • Giuseppe De Arcangelis

    () (Department of Economic Theory and CIDEI - Sapienza University of Rome (Italy))

  • Laura Serlenga

    () (IZA and Department of Economic Science - University of Bari (Italy))


Undocumented migration is a pervasive and increasingly relevant phenomenon in modern societies. In this paper we shed some lights on the factors affecting the return plans of irregular migrants and in particular on the role of individual skills and abilities. We show that highly skilled clandestine migrants are more likely to return home than migrants with low or no skills; we argue that this result is due to constraints imposed by the irregular status on migrants' ability to fully employ human capital in the destination country ("skill waste"). We present this idea in a simple life-cycle framework where illegality is modeled as a tax on skills that reduces the opportunity cost of returning home, particularly for the highly skilled. This proposition is tested using individuallevel data on irregular migrants in two OECD countries Italy and the US. The two data sources offer two very distinct situations - in terms of densities of migrants networks, duration of the migration spell, country of origin and destinations etc. - on which to test the implications of the model. Empirical evidence confirms that the intention to return to the home country is more likely for highly skilled illegal immigrants. The effects are weaker when migration takes place within consolidated networks of already established migrants, as for the case of Mexicans in the US. In general the results of this paper suggest that when a large proportion of immigration flows takes places outside the legal system, the out-migration of irregular migrants is likely to reinforce the negative self-selection at entry (those with relatively higher skills are more likely to return in the home countries).

Suggested Citation

  • Nicola Coniglio & Giuseppe De Arcangelis & Laura Serlenga, 2010. "Clandestine Migrants: Do the High-Skilled Return Home First?," Working Papers 1/10, Sapienza University of Rome, DISS.
  • Handle: RePEc:saq:wpaper:1/10

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Kupets Olga, 2011. "Brain Gain or Brain Waste? The Performance of Return Labor Migrants in the Ukrainian Labor Market," EERC Working Paper Series 11/06e, EERC Research Network, Russia and CIS.

    More about this item


    Illegal migration; labor skills; survey data; return migration.;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • C25 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions; Probabilities


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:saq:wpaper:1/10. 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: (Pierluigi Montalbano). General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.