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Internal Labor Migration as a Shock Coping Strategy: Evidence from a Typhoon (with Yanos Zylberberg), American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 8 (2): 123-53, 2016.

We analyze how internal labor migration facilitates shock coping in rural economies. Employing high-precision satellite data, we identify objective variations in the inundations generated by a catastrophic typhoon in Vietnam and match them with household panel data before and after the shock. We find that, following a massive drop in income, households cope mainly through labor migration to urban areas. Households with settled migrants ex ante receive more remittances. Nonmigrant households react by sending new members away who then remit similar amounts than established migrants. This mechanism is most effective with long-distance migration, while local networks fail to provide insurance.

JEL-classification: J61, O15; P25, P36, Q54, R23

Keywords: Risk Sharing, Internal Migration, Natural Disasters, Vietnam

Searching for a Better Life: Predicting International Migration with Online Search Keywords (with Marcus Böhme and Tobias Stöhr) Journal of Development Economics forthcoming

Migration data remains scarce, particularly in the context of developing countries. We demonstrate how geo-referenced online search data can be used to measure migration intentions in origin countries and predict migration flows. Our approach provides strong additional predictive power for international migration flows when compared to reference models from the migration and trade literature. We provide evidence, based on survey data, that our measures partly reflect genuine migration intentions and that they outperform any of the established predictors of migration flows in terms of predictive power, especially in the bilateral within-dimension. Our findings contribute to the literature by (1) providing a novel way for the measurement of migration intentions, (2) allowing real-time predictions of current migration flows ahead of official statistics, and (3) improving the performance of conventional models of migration flows.

JEL-classification: F22, C82, J61, O15

Keywords: International Migration, Migration Intention, Google Trends

Media coverage: GIS Lounge

Other Publications

The Vietnamese-Chinese Migration Industry in Angola: A Case Study (with Rainer Klump), in: Asian-African Encounters, Amsterdam University Press, 2017.

Working Papers

Easy Come, Easy Go? Economic Shocks, Labor Migration and the Family Left Behind, Barcelona GSE Working Paper, No. 1086, 2019. Revise & resubmit

  • Nominated for the Young Labour Economist Prize 2017 of the European Association of Labour Economists (EALE).

This article investigates the impact of negative income shocks in migrant destination countries around the world on the domestic and international labor migration decisions of their family members left behind at origin. Exploiting differences in labor market shocks across and within destinations during the Great Recession, I find large and heterogeneous effects on both types of migration decisions. High remittance-dependent households reduced domestic and increased international labor migration in response to the shock. Low dependence ones remained largely unaffected. I provide a theoretical framework, which rationalizes this heterogeneity by the relative magnitudes of income and substitution effects caused by the shock. The results imply a deterioration in the skill selection of aggregate international migrant flows as high dependence households had below average skill levels. New international migrants targeted the same destinations as established ones from the same household, providing evidence of strong kinship migration networks. The results show that domestic and foreign migration decisions are interrelated and jointly determine aggregate migration flows.

JEL-classification: F22, J61, O15, R23

Keywords: International Migration, Domestic Migration, Labor Supply, Migrant Selection, Unemployment, Vietnam

Work in Progress

Spotting Violence from Space (with Jonathan Hersh, Andrea Matranga, Hannes Mueller and Joan Serrat)

Behavioral Biases in Information Sharing (with Dean Yang and Pau Milan)

Natural disasters in SouthEast Asia (with Abel Brodeur and Yanos Zylberberg)

ODA and Migration (with Andreas Fuchs and Tobias Stöhr)