Self-Selection and International Migration: New Evidence from Mexico
NBER Working Paper No. 15765
This paper uses data from the Mexican Family Life Survey (MxFLS) to examine the patterns of selection of male, Mexican migrants to the United States. We confirm previous findings that Mexican migrants are selected from the middle of the education distribution, but show that there is no evidence for selection of migrants on cognitive ability. We demonstrate that migrants are also selected from the middle of the observed skill distribution, as measured by predicted wages. However, controlling for proxies of the costs of migration, we find substantially less evidence of "intermediate selection" on observed skill. We find little evidence for selection on unobserved skill, with or without controls for the costs of migration. Finally, we show directly that the decision to migrate is highly correlated with differential returns to observable skill and the costs of migration. Overall, these findings are consistent with the predictions of the canonical model of migration.