Wages, welfare benefits and migration

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Differences in economic opportunities give rise to strong migration incentives, across regions within countries, and across countries. In this paper we focus on responses to differences in welfare benefits across States within the United States. We apply the model developed in Kennan and Walker (2008), which emphasizes that migration decisions are often reversed, and that many alternative locations must be considered. We model individual decisions to migrate as a job search problem. A worker starts the life-cycle in some home location and must determine the optimal sequence of moves before settling down. The model is sparsely parameterized. We estimate the model using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979). Our main finding is that income differences do help explain the migration decisions of young welfare-eligible women, but large differences in benefit levels provide surprisingly weak migration incentives. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.




Kennan, J., & Walker, J. R. (2010). Wages, welfare benefits and migration. Journal of Econometrics, 156(1), 229–238. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeconom.2009.09.019

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