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DECRG-Trade Seminar: Birth Rates and Border Crossings: The Demographic Push Behind Emigration in the Americas

Sponsor: Development Economics and Chief Economist (DEC)

Speaker: Gordon Hanson, UC-San Diego & NBER

Co-Author: Craig McIntosh, UC San Diego

Summary: We intersect data on births from the WDI with U.S Census information oncountry of origin to estimate cohort-specific migration rates to the U.S. for twenty-one countries in the Americas. Using these data, we confirm the theoretical prediction that labor supply should play a driving role in migration, with individuals born into unusually large cohorts having a higher propensity to migrate. We find this effect to be strongest in nearby countries, with a slope that is decreasing and convex in both distance and in the number of countries crossed to reach the U.S. Labor supply-driven migration also interacts in interesting ways with shocks in the sending countries: natural disasters, sudden stops, and high-variability in income per capita all lead to more out-migration when they occur in large cohorts. Our results suggest a strong role for demographic pressure in generating migration in the Americas.

Contact: Yasmin D'Souza at

For Information: Yasmin D Souza

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