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.

  • Immigrants’ occupational mobility—Down and back up again

    The occupational status of most immigrants initially declines but then increases

    Aslan Zorlu, September 2016
    Evidence suggests that immigrants face an initial decline in their occupational status when they enter the host country labor market but that their position improves as they acquire more country-specific human, cultural, and occupational capital. High-skilled immigrants from countries that are economically, linguistically, and culturally different from the host country experience the greatest decline and the steepest subsequent increase in their occupational status. In the context of sharp international competition to attract high-skilled immigrants, this adjustment pattern is contradictory and discourages potential high-skilled migrants.
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  • Circular migration

    Why restricting labor mobility can be counterproductive

    In the popular immigration narrative, migrants leave one country and establish themselves permanently in another, creating a “brain drain” in the sending country. In reality, migration is typically temporary: Workers migrate, find employment, and then return home or move on, often multiple times. Sending countries benefit from remittances while workers are abroad and from enhanced human capital when they return, while receiving countries fill labor shortages. Policies impeding circular migration can be costly to both sending and receiving countries.
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  • Who benefits from the minimum wage—natives or migrants?

    There is no evidence that increases in the minimum wage have hurt immigrants

    Madeline Zavodny, December 2014
    According to economic theory, a minimum wage reduces the number of low-wage jobs and increases the number of available workers, allowing greater hiring selectivity. More competition for a smaller number of low-wage jobs will disadvantage immigrants if employers perceive them as less skilled than native-born workers—and vice versa. Studies indicate that a higher minimum wage does not hurt immigrants, but there is no consensus on whether immigrants benefit at the expense of natives. Studies also reach disparate conclusions on whether higher minimum wages attract or repel immigrants.
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  • Should countries auction immigrant visas?

    Selling the right to immigrate to the highest bidders would allocate visas efficiently but might raise ethical concerns

    Madeline Zavodny, November 2015
    Many immigrant destination countries face considerable pressure to change their immigration policies. One of the most innovative policies is auctioning the right to immigrate or to hire a foreign worker to the highest bidders. Visa auctions would be more efficient than current ways of allocating visas, could boost the economic contribution of immigration to the destination country, and would increase government revenues. However, visa auctions might weaken the importance of family ties in the migration process and create concerns about fairness and accessibility. No country has yet auctioned visas.
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  • Post-enlargement emigration and new EU members’ labor markets

    Outmigration has contributed to increasing wages and decreasing unemployment in the new EU member states but may also cause skills shortages

    Anzelika Zaiceva, August 2014
    The recent EU enlargements into Central and Eastern Europe and increased labor mobility within the Union provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the labor market effects of emigration. Outmigration has contributed to higher wages for stayers, as well as to lower unemployment in the source country. However, emigration has also exacerbated skills shortages in some sectors, as well as mismatches between skills and jobs.
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  • The impact of aging on the scale of migration

    Older people migrate less than young, yet with population aging, mobility of elderly and specialized workers may increase

    Anzelika Zaiceva, November 2014
    Population aging will continue in the future, in both developed and developing countries. This may lead to lower migration, since the desire to migrate declines later in the life cycle. In addition, indirect labor demand effects may also reduce migration. However, migration of the elderly, return retirement migration, as well as mobility of certain specialist workers such as health and longer-term care providers, may increase. Also, in a family context, the emigration of children may have significant consequences for the elderly left behind, both in terms of poverty risk and health care.
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  • Who benefits from return migration to developing countries?

    Despite returnees being a potential resource, not all developing countries benefit from their return

    Jackline Wahba, February 2015
    Return migration can have multiple benefits. It allows migrants who have accumulated savings abroad to ease credit constraints at home and set up a business. Also, emigrants from developing countries who have invested in their human capital may earn higher wages when they return. However, whether the home country benefits from return migrants depends on the migrant’s success in accumulating savings and human capital and on the home country’s ability to make use of returnees’ skills and investment. To benefit from returnees, home countries need policies that encourage returnees’ investment and labor market reintegration.
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  • The use of natural experiments in migration research

    Data on rapid, unexpected refugee flows can credibly identify the impact of migration on native workers’ labor market outcomes

    Semih Tumen, October 2015
    Estimating the causal effect of immigration on the labor market outcomes of native workers has been a major concern in the literature. Because immigrants decide whether and where to migrate, immigrant populations generally consist of individuals with characteristics that differ from those of a randomly selected sample. One solution is to focus on events such as civil wars and natural catastrophes that generate rapid and unexpected flows of refugees into a country unrelated to their personal characteristics, location, and employment preferences. These “natural experiments” yield estimates that find small negative effects on native workers’ employment but not on wages.
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  • Retiree migration and intergenerational conflict

    Retiree migration can have economic benefits but can also lead to intergenerational conflict in education spending

    Mehmet S. Tosun, January 2015
    With the aging of populations, particularly in more developed countries, retirees are becoming a politically influential group. Government budgets have been feeling the strain on social insurance, health care, and other programs that benefit the elderly. Yet spending on these programs has often come at the expense of other programs such as education, which benefit primarily the younger population. Attracting retirees has been viewed as an important avenue of economic development, with positive impacts on revenue and expenditure. However, it can also have a negative impact on education spending potentially resulting in intergenerational fiscal conflict.
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  • Using a point system for selecting immigrants

    A point system can select economically desirable immigrants but it cannot prevent poor labor outcomes for immigrants

    Massimiliano Tani, May 2014
    Restricting immigration to young and skilled immigrants using a point system, as in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, succeeds in selecting economically desirable immigrants and provides orderly management of population growth. But the point system cannot fix short-term skilled labor shortages in a timely manner nor prevent poor labor market outcomes for immigrants, since domestic employers can undervalue schooling and work experience acquired abroad. Furthermore, the efficacy of a point system can be compromised if unscreened visa categories receive higher priority.
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