Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity


Who Leaves and Who Returns? Deciphering Immigrant Self-Selection

Thursday, February 23, 2006 - 10:00am to 11:30am

Center for Global Development
1800 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Third Floor
10:00-11:30 am

Randall Akee,
a Ph.D candidate in Political Economy and Government at Harvard University will present Who Leaves and Who Returns? Deciphering Immigrant Self-Selection.

Please RSVP to Sarah Dean by February 22nd at

Abstract: Existing research examining the self-selection of immigrants suffers from a lack of information on the immigrants’ labor force activities in the home country, quotas limiting who is allowed to enter the destination country, and non-economic factors such as internal civil strife in the home country. Using a novel data set from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), I analyze an immigration flow that suffers from none of these problems. I find that high-skilled workers are the most likely to migrate from the FSM to the U.S. and that their behavior is explained mainly by the difference in average wages for their skill group. This finding suggests that previous immigration studies have overemphasized the role played by differences in the distributions of countries’ wages and skills. Including information on the immigrants’ characteristics prior to migration is central to my analysis, which highlights the importance of datasets that contain both home and destination country data on immigrants. The impact of this outflow on the home country may not be all bad; there is a strong return flow of more educated migrants to the FSM over time.