Working Papers

Selection and heterogeneity in the returns to migration (with Marieke Kleemans and Emilia Tjernström)

Abstract: There is considerable debate on the returns to rural-urban migration in developing countries, and magnitudes differ sharply depending on the method used. We aim to reconcile these divergent estimates by explicitly accounting for the role of heterogeneity in the returns to migration. We use detailed longitudinal data from four developing countries—Indonesia, South Africa, China, and Tanzania—where we observe the location choices and labor market outcomes of tens of thousands of adults over multiple periods. We model self-selection into migration in a multi-period Roy model that incorporates worker heterogeneity in both absolute and comparative advantage. We then estimate a correlated random coefficient model that considers both types of heterogeneity. This model lets us extrapolate the returns identified from switcher sub-populations to non-switchers—a group of particular interest to policymakers deciding whether to encourage migration as a development strategy. Our results reveal considerable heterogeneity in the returns to migration and show a clear pattern in the relationship between absolute and comparative advantage across countries: those with the lowest productivity in rural areas stand the most to gain from migrating. This suggests that migration is a pro-poor strategy but that barriers to migration may prevent workers from realizing their potential. As such, individuals appear to be inefficiently sorted across space; therefore, encouraging migration could lead to large returns. 

The impact of teacher strikes on high school students in the United States (with Dustin White, Jamie Wagner, and Megan Harris)

Abstract: Teacher strikes reduce the number of school days and interrupt instruction, yet there is scarce evidence on how teacher strikes impact observable measures of students’ performance. Using data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 and information gathered about teacher strikes from the 2009-10 to 2012-13 school years, we find that each day of school missed due to teacher strikes is associated with a 0.015-point decline in GPA for affected students. The typical strike corresponds to a 0.158-point GPA drop for affected students. Low-performing students are also significantly less likely to graduate after a strike. We leverage information on parent and student expectations of their educational attainment to show that those expectations are unaffected by strikes, suggesting that omitted variables are unlikely to cause the observed changes in GPA and graduation rates.

Internal migration and the spread of long-term impacts of historical immigration in Brazil (with Daniel Lopes and Leonardo Monasterio)

Abstract: Immigration shocks in the 1850–1960 period left long-lasting positive impacts in southern Brazil. Yet, little is known about how these benefits spread over the country in the following decades. We use a surname-based classification of ancestries to identify descendants of immigrants and investigate the spreading of gains from historical immigration in Brazil. We find that the concentration of descendants of historical immigrants in municipalities in northern and central Brazil is positively associated with several indicators of economic development today, in particular with higher wages. Leveraging individual-level information from linked employer-employee data in which we observe both the individual's wage and ancestry, we find a wage premium of approximately 12% for descendants and positive spillovers between ancestry groups. One additional percentage point in the concentration of descendants in a municipality corresponds to a wage increase of 1% for descendants and 2% for non-descendants. Our results agree with a model where descendants and non-descendants have complementary skills in the production function of the firms, particularly those in the agricultural sector.

The wage premium of migrants and return migrants: Internal migration in Brazil

Abstract: This paper investigates the components and the recent evolution of the wage premium of current and return migrants within Brazil. Using cross-sectional data from repeated household surveys in 2004–2014, I find that the wages of internal migrants are about 12% higher than the wages of non-migrants. For return migrants, wages are 9% higher on average. I also find that the wage premium for migrants decreased during this period, while the wage premium for return migrants increased. Using longitudinal data from linked employer-employee datasets in 2005–2015, I find a 5–10% wage premium for both migrants and return migrants in panel regressions with individual fixed effects for a subsample of formal sector workers. Restricting the sample to those who move at some point in the panel, I find no wage premium associated with the current migrant status and a 4% wage penalty associated with returning. I explore different regression specifications, subsamples, and an instrumental variables strategy based on past migration rates to discuss the role of self-selection, place-specific effects, and learning on these wage premia. My results suggest that the self-selection of internal migrants in Brazil is based more on absolute advantage (migrants earn more in any location) than comparative advantage (migrants earn more in a specific location). My results are also consistent with learning impacting post-migration earnings regardless of a migrant's location.

Work in Progress

Intergenerational mobility and regional inequality in Brazil (with Daniel Lopes and Leonardo Monasterio)

Abstract: We adapt the methodology developed by Güell et al. (2015) and reproduce in Brazil the study of intergenerational mobility (IM) and regional inequality done by Güell et al. (2018) in Italy. Our study leverages unique features of the Brazilian context, such as the availability of schooling and income outcomes in datasets informing surnames, detailed measures of ancestry and internal migration, and wide regional variation. Thus, we circumvent data limitations in the two original studies conducted in two developed European countries and provide an overview of the relationship between IM and inequality in a middle-income Latin American country. We also make a novel contribution by investigating how IM correlates with historical factors and contemporaneous indicators of socioeconomic development in Brazil. Our results show that past land inequality and slavery are associated with lower long-term mobility, which in turn is associated with indicators of poor economic performance, such as lower income per capita and educational attainment. Unlike other studies of IM in Brazil, we find no clear geographic pattern, and we find a positive (though weak) correlation between social mobility and current inequality.

Parental leave and career gender gaps (with Ana Paula Melo)

Short description: This paper investigates the impact of parental leave on the career progression of working parents, their coworkers, and employers, allowing for differential impacts for male and female coworkers in an event-study design using matched employer-employee panel data from Brazil.