Are Mexican Migrants to the US Adversely Selected on Ability?

Eric R. Jensen, College of William and Mary
Sarah Gale, Xtec Inc.
Paul Charpentier, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Recent migrants to the United States have displayed lower earnings levels and a slower rate of earnings convergence with natives than previous immigrants. Borjas has argued that this reflects negative selectivity of immigrants; others, including Card, Chiquiar and Hanson, and Duleep and Regets, question this contention. Some of the ambiguity may be due to measurement problems, with educational attainment (or its labor market consequences) used in place of unobserved migrant quality. Using Mexican Migration Project data, we estimate models of migration probability. Our results suggest that educational attainment is not a good indicator of ability, since much of the observed variation in educational attainment in Mexico appears to be the result of local constraints in the supply of education. We propose an alternative measure of migrant quality that incorporates education supply constraints, and present evidence of Mexican emigrants self-selecting positively on ability.

  See paper

Presented in Session 20: International Migration