Migration and ethnicity

Mobility is important for the functioning of markets and society. Contributions to this subject area deal with issues of national and international mobility, such as demand and supply, and what migration means for natives and migrants and for sending and receiving countries.

  • Skill-based immigration, economic integration, and economic performance Updated

    Benefiting from highly skilled immigrants requires a complementary mix of immigrant selection and economic integration policies

    There is increasing global competition for high-skilled immigrants, as countries intensify efforts to attract a larger share of the world's talent pool. In this environment, high-skill immigrants are becoming increasingly selective in their choices between alternative destinations. Studies for major immigrant-receiving countries that provide evidence on the comparative economic performance of immigrant classes (skill-, kinship-, and humanitarian-based) show that skill-based immigrants perform better in the labor market. However, there are serious challenges to their economic integration, which highlights a need for complementary immigration and integration policies.
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  • Migration and human capital accumulation in China

    Migration may generate detrimental long-term impacts by widening the urban–rural educational gap

    The difference in educational attainment between China's urban- and rural-born populations has widened in recent years, and the relatively low educational attainment of the rural-born is a significant obstacle to raising labor productivity. Rural-to-urban migration does not create incentives to enroll in higher education as the availability of low-skill employment in urban areas makes remaining in school less attractive. In addition, the child-fostering and urban schooling arrangements for children of migrants further inhibit human capital accumulation.
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  • Naturalization and citizenship: Who benefits? Updated

    Liberalizing access to citizenship improves the economic and social integration of immigrants

    The perceived lack of economic or social integration by immigrants in their host countries is a key concern in the public debate. Research shows that the option to naturalize has considerable economic and social benefits for eligible immigrants, even in countries with a tradition of restrictive policies. First-generation immigrants who naturalize have higher earnings and more stable jobs. Gains are particularly large for immigrants from poorer countries. Moreover, citizenship encourages additional investment in skills and enables immigrants to postpone marriage and fertility. A key question is: does naturalization promote successful integration or do only those immigrants most willing to integrate actually apply?
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  • Public attitudes toward immigration—Determinants and unknowns

    Sociopsychological factors are much more important than economic issues in shaping attitudes toward immigration

    Mohsen Javdani, March 2020
    Public attitudes toward immigration play an important role in influencing immigration policy and immigrants’ integration experience. This highlights the importance of a systematic examination of these public attitudes and their underlying drivers. Evidence increasingly suggests that while a majority of individuals favor restrictive immigration policies, particularly against ethnically different immigrants, there exists significant variation in these public views by country, education, age, and so on. In addition, sociopsychological factors play a significantly more important role than economic concerns in driving these public attitudes and differences.
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  • Language proficiency and immigrants’ economic integration

    It is vital to measure language proficiency well, as it crucially determines immigrants’ earnings

    Over recent decades, Western countries have admitted many immigrants from non-traditional regions (e.g. Philippines, India, China), which has coincided with poor economic integration. Language proficiency is an important determinant of economic integration; in addition to being a component of human capital, it plays a key role in facilitating the transmission of other components of human capital. Examining the strengths and weaknesses of objective and subjective measures of language proficiency is crucial for good integration policy, as is understanding the relationship between these measures and earnings, a key indicator of economic integration.
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  • Enforcement and illegal migration Updated

    Enforcement deters immigration but with unintended consequences

    Pia Orrenius, November 2019
    Border enforcement of immigration laws raises the costs of illegal immigration, while interior enforcement also lowers its benefits. Used together, border and interior enforcement therefore reduce the net benefits of illegal immigration and should lower the probability that an individual will decide to illegally migrate. While empirical studies find that border and interior enforcement serve as deterrents to illegal immigration, immigration enforcement is costly and carries unintended consequences, such as a decrease in circular migration, an increase in smuggling, and higher prevalence of off-the-books employment and use of fraudulent and falsified documents.
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  • Immigrants and entrepreneurship Updated

    Business ownership is higher among immigrants, but promoting self-employment is unlikely to improve outcomes for the less skilled

    Immigrants are widely perceived to be highly entrepreneurial, contributing to economic growth and innovation, and self-employment is often viewed as a means of enhancing labor market integration and success among immigrants. Accordingly, many countries have established special visas and entry requirements to attract immigrant entrepreneurs. Research supports some of these stances, but expectations may be too high. There is no strong evidence that self-employment is an effective tool of upward economic mobility among low-skilled immigrants. More broadly prioritizing high-skilled immigrants may prove to be more successful than focusing on entrepreneurship.
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  • Can immigrants ever earn as much as native workers? Updated

    Immigrants initially earn less than natives; the wage gap falls over time, but for many immigrant groups it never closes

    Immigrants contribute to the economic development of the host country, but they earn less at entry and it takes many years for them to achieve parity of income. For some immigrant groups, the wage gap never closes. There is a wide variation across countries in the entry wage gap and the speed of wage assimilation over time. Wage assimilation is affected by year of entry, immigrant skill, ethnicity, and gender. Policies that facilitate assimilation of immigrant workers provide support for education, language, and employment. Such policies can also reduce barriers to entry, encourage naturalization, and target selection of immigrants.
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  • Why do STEM immigrants do better in one country than another?

    Where STEM immigrants were educated strongly influences their economic success and possibly their impact on innovation

    Garnett PicotFeng Hou, April 2019
    Canada, the US, and most Western countries are looking to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) immigrants to boost innovation and economic growth. Canada in particular has welcomed many STEM immigrants over the past quarter of a century. In the US, there is an ongoing debate about whether the H–1B visa program is being used effectively to attract more STEM immigrants. Interestingly, significant differences exist between the two countries in earnings and likely the innovation activity of highly educated immigrants, which highlights the likely role of immigration policy in determining such outcomes.
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  • Crime and immigration Updated

    Do poor labor market opportunities lead to migrant crime?

    Brian Bell, January 2019
    Immigration is one of the most important policy debates in Western countries. However, one aspect of the debate is often mischaracterized by accusations that higher levels of immigration lead to higher levels of crime. The evidence, based on empirical studies of many countries, indicates that there is no simple link between immigration and crime, but legalizing the status of immigrants has beneficial effects on crime rates. Crucially, the evidence points to substantial differences in the impact on property crime, depending on the labor market opportunities of immigrant groups.
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