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Moving to Opportunity, Leaving Behind What? Evaluating the Initial Effects of a Migration Policy on Incomes and Poverty in Source Areas

  • David McKenzie


    (The World Bank)

  • John Gibson

    (University of Waikato)

  • Steven Stillman

    (Motu Economic and Public Policy Research)

Migration to New Zealand and consequent remittance inflows are dominant features of many Pacific Island countries. Evaluating the effect of these people and money flows on incomes and poverty in the Pacific is potentially complicated by the non-random selection of emigrants. This paper uses the randomization provided by an immigration ballot under the Pacific Access Category (PAC) of New Zealand’s immigration policy to address this problem. We survey applicants to the 2002-05 PAC ballots in Tonga and compare outcomes for the remaining family of emigrants with those for similar families who were unsuccessful in the ballots. We then contrast these estimates with more conventional ones that construct no-emigration counterfactuals by deducting remittance income from the remaining family of PAC emigrants and adding back the potential home earnings of emigrants. The results suggest that the economic welfare of remaining family may fall in the initial period after members of their household move to New Zealand. We also find that non-experimental methods of constructing counterfactual income are likely to work well only in rare situations where there is random selection of emigrants.

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Paper provided by University of Waikato, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers in Economics with number 07/23.

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Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: 10 Nov 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wai:econwp:07/23
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  1. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:115:y:2000:i:2:p:651-694 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Richard P.C. Brown & Gareth Leeves, 2007. "Impacts of International Migration and Remittances," Discussion Papers Series 347, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
  3. David McKenzie & John Gibson & Steven Stillman, 2006. "How Important is Selection? Experimental vs Non-experimental Measures of Income Gains from Migration," Working Papers in Economics 06/03, University of Waikato, Department of Economics.
  4. Adams, Richard H, Jr, 1989. "Worker Remittances and Inequality in Rural Egypt," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(1), pages 45-71, October.
  5. David Mckenzie & Hillel Rapoport, 2004. "Network Effects and the Dynamics of Migration and Inequality: Theory and Evidence from Mexico," Working Papers 2004-3, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
  6. Joshua Angrist, 2004. "Treatment Effect Heterogeneity in Theory and Practice," Econometric Society 2004 North American Winter Meetings 186, Econometric Society.
  7. Barham, Bradford & Boucher, Stephen, 1998. "Migration, remittances, and inequality: estimating the net effects of migration on income distribution," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 307-331, April.
  8. John Gibson & David McKenzie & Halahingano Rohorua, 2006. "How Cost Elastic are Remittances? Estimates from Tongan Migrants in New Zealand," Working Papers in Economics 06/02, University of Waikato, Department of Economics.
  9. David McKenzie, 2005. "Measuring inequality with asset indicators," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 229-260, 06.
  10. Stillman, Steven & McKenzie, David & Gibson, John, 2009. "Migration and mental health: Evidence from a natural experiment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 677-687, May.
  11. Acosta, Pablo & Fajnzylber, Pablo & Lopez, J. Humberto, 2007. "The impact of remittances on poverty and human capital : evidence from Latin American household surveys," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4247, The World Bank.
  12. Stark, Oded & Taylor, J Edward & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1986. "Remittances and Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 96(383), pages 722-40, September.
  13. Richard P.C. Brown & Gareth Leeves, 2007. "Impacts of International Migration and Remittances on Source Country Household Incomes in Small Island States; Fiji and Tonga," Working Papers 07-13, Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA).
  14. James Heckman & Neil Hohmann & Jeffrey Smith, 1998. "Substitution and Dropout Bias in Social Experiments: A Study of an Influential Social Experiment," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 9819, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  15. David McKenzie & Steven Stillman & John Gibson, 2010. "How Important is Selection? Experimental VS. Non‐Experimental Measures of the Income Gains from Migration," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 913-945, 06.
  16. Claudia Martínez Alvear & Dean Yang, 2007. "Remittances and Poverty in Migrants’ Home Areas: Evidence from the Philippines," Working Papers wp257, University of Chile, Department of Economics.
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