NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Labor Market Effects of a Refugee Wave: Applying the Synthetic Control Method to the Mariel Boatlift

Giovanni Peri, Vasil Yasenov

NBER Working Paper No. 21801
Issued in December 2015, Revised in June 2017
NBER Program(s):International Trade and Investment, Labor Studies

We apply the Synthetic Control Method to re-examine the labor market effects of the Mariel Boatlift, first studied by David Card (1990). This method improves on previous studies by choosing a control group of cities that best matches Miami’s labor market trends pre-Boatlift and providing more reliable inference. Using a sample of non-Cuban high-school dropouts we find no significant difference in the wages of workers in Miami relative to its control after 1980. We also show that by focusing on small sub-samples and matching the control group on a short pre-1979 series, as done in Borjas (2017), one can find large wage differences between Miami and control because of large measurement error.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21801

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