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Economics of Immigration

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 5, 2018 10:15 AM - 12:15 PM

Pennsylvania Convention Center, 109-A
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Sukanya Basu, Vassar College

Do natives’ beliefs about refugees’ education level affect attitudes toward refugees? Evidence from randomized survey experiments

Lisa K. Simon
ifo Institute
Philipp Lergetporer
ifo Institute
Marc Piopiunik
ifo Institute


In recent years, Europe has experienced an unprecedented influx of refugees. While natives’ attitudes toward refugees are decisive for the political feasibility of asylum policies, little is known about how these attitudes are shaped by refugees’ characteristics. We conducted survey experiments with more than 5,000 university students in Germany in which we exogenously shifted participants’ beliefs about refugees’ education level through information provision. Consistent with economic theory, we find that beliefs about refugees’ education significantly affect concerns about labor market competition. These concerns, however, do not translate into general attitudes because economic aspects are rather unimportant for forming attitudes toward refugees.

Is It Merely A Labor Supply Shock? Impacts of Syrian Migrants on Local Economies in Turkey

Doruk Cengiz
University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Hasan Tekguc
Kadir Has University


We use a large and geographically varying inflow of over 2.5 million Syrian migrants in Turkey between 2012 and 2015 to study the effect of migration on local economies. Using recently available province-level residence data of Syrian population in Turkey, we do not find adverse employment or wage effects for native-born Turkish workers overall, or those without a high school degree. These results are robust to a range of strategies to construct reliable control groups. On the other hand, we find evidence for a number of channels indicating demand side effects of migration that helped offset the impact of a labor supply shock. Turkish workers’ participation in the formal sector rose in response to the migration, consistent with complementarity of migrants and native born workers. In addition, migration led to an increase in residential building construction, with the number of new dwelling units increasing by more than 33%. Finally, Syrian migration brought in capital and entrepreneurs to the host regions, spurring new business creation: the migration led to a more than 24% increase in new companies, reflecting an increase in both Syrian-founded and non-Syrian founded companies. Our findings suggest that migration-induced increases in regional demand and capital supply enable local labor markets to absorb inflow of migrant labor, and prevent sizable wage decline or job loss for native workers.

Migrants, Ancestors, and Foreign Investments

Tarek A. Hassan
Boston University, NBER, and CEPR
Thomas Chaney
Toulouse School of Economics and CEPR
Konrad Burchardi
Institute for International Economic Studies, Stockholm University, BREAD, and CEPR


We use 130 years of data on historical migrations to the United States to show a causal
effect of the ancestry composition of US counties on foreign direct investment (FDI) sent
and received by local firms. To isolate the causal effect of ancestry on FDI, we build a simple
reduced-form model of migrations: Migrations from a foreign country to a US county at
a given time depend on (i) a push factor, causing emigration from that foreign country to
the entire United States, and (ii) a pull factor, causing immigration from all origins into
that US county. The interaction between time-series variation in origin-specific push factors
and destination-specific pull factors generates quasi-random variation in the allocation of
migrants across US counties. We find that a doubling of the number of residents with
ancestry from a given foreign country relative to the mean increases by 4 percentage points
the probability that at least one local firm engages in FDI with that country. We present
evidence this effect is primarily driven by a reduction in information frictions, and not by
better contract enforcement, taste similarities, or a convergence in factor endowments.

Rainfall Fluctuation and Selection Patterns of Mexico-United States Migration

Shan Li
Central University of Finance and Economics
Ram Fishman
Tel Aviv University


This paper studies the role of climate fluctuation, changes in rainfall, in determining self-selection patterns of Mexico-U.S. migration. Taking migration costs and returns to education into consideration, a simple theoretical model shows how the climate fluctuation affects migration incentives at different education levels and how this influences the education distribution of migrants. Empirically, we examine the effects of rainfall on Mexicans' migration intention for two education groups separately. In the group of less educated people, those with relatively more years of schooling are more likely to move to the U.S. in a drought year, yet the positive selection is impaired. In the group of more educated people, those with relatively fewer years of schooling are more likely to migrate in a drought year, reinforcing the negative selection.
JEL Classifications
  • J1 - Demographic Economics