Working Paper

Higher economic growth in poor countries, lower migration flows to the OECD—Revisiting the migration hump with panel data

Kiel Working Paper, 2145 Download

Abstract

Comparing emigration rates of countries at different stages of economic development, an inverse u-shape emerges. Although merely based on cross-sectional evidence, the “migration hump” is widely interpreted as a causal relationship. Therefore, economic progress in developing countries is assumed to increase migration. For policy makers in destination countries that implies a sensitive trade-off between supporting development and reducing immigration pressures. In this paper we investigate whether the migration hump holds up to more scrutiny, finding that the cross-sectional pattern is misleading. Using 35 years of data on migration flows to OECD destinations, we successfully reproduce the hump-shape in the cross-section. However, more rigorous fixed effects panel estimations that exploit the variation over time consistently show a negative association between income and emigration. This result is independent of the level of income a country starts out at and thus casts doubt on any causal interpretation of the migration hump.

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Publication Date
JEL Classification
F22, F63, O15