Easy come, easy go? Economic shocks, labor migration and the family left behind

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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. Poor migrant households reduced domestic and increased international labor migration in response to the shock. Rich migrant households 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 poor 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. Changes in migration also led to an increase in intimate partner cohabitation and fertility among poor families. The results show that domestic and foreign migration decisions are interrelated and jointly determine household outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBarcelona GSE Working Paper Series, R&R Journal of International Economics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Domestic migration
  • Fertility
  • International migration
  • Migration selection
  • Unemployment
  • Vietnam


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