The labor market impacts of forced migration

Type Working Paper - The American Economic Review
Title The labor market impacts of forced migration
Volume 105
Issue 5
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Page numbers 581-586
One of the key consequences of civil conflict is forced migration. The United Nations
Population Division (2013) suggests that from the total global stock of 232 million
international migrants in 2013, about 16 million (6.8%) were refugees. Just recently, over 2
million Syrians have been displaced since the conflict started in March 2011 (UNHCR,
2013). The magnitude and frequency of forced displacement has important economic and
humanitarian implications.
One frequently overlooked aspect of forced migration is the consequences for host
communities. One of these consequences, and the focus of this article, is the impact on labour
market outcomes. The academic literature on the labour market impacts of forced migration
is small compared to the corresponding literature in the “voluntary” migration context. The
scarcity of studies looking at forced migration is surprising given that forced migration
situations often have certain characteristics that could facilitate the identification of causal
relationships (Ruiz and Vargas-Silva, 2013). One of the greatest challenges to identify causal
relationships between migration flows and host country labour market conditions is the fact
that migrants are typically attracted to locations which are expected to do better in economic
terms. Violence is the main driver of emigration in the forced migration context, a factor which in many cases is largely unrelated to the economic conditions of the destination. In
these cases forced migration leads to an exogenous shift in labour supply. This article looks at
a situation in which the location of forced migrants was affected by a series of geographical
barriers and logistical decisions. These resulted in a natural experiment which enables the
exploration of the labour market impacts of forced migration.

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