Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills and the Selection and Sorting of Migrants

55 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2017 Last revised: 7 Oct 2017

See all articles by Aline Butikofer

Aline Butikofer

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics

Giovanni Peri

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics

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Date Written: September 2017

Abstract

There is growing evidence that cognitive and noncognitive skills are strong predictors of the economic and social outcomes of individuals. In this paper, we analyze how they affect the migration decisions of individuals over their lifecycles. We use data that combine military enlistment and administrative records for the male population born in 1932 and 1933 in Norway. Records of interviews with a psychologist at age 20 allow us to construct an index of `sociability' and `adaptability' for each individual, as well as an index of cognitive ability, the intelligence quotient. We find that adaptability and cognitive ability have significant and positive impacts on the probability of an individual migrating out of his area, whether this involves rural-urban, long distance, or international migration. Adaptability has a particularly strong impact on migration for individuals with low cognitive skills, implying a strong positive selection of less educated migrants with respect to the (previously unobserved) adaptability skill. We also show that cognitive skills have a strong positive effect on sorting of migrants across destinations, whereas adaptability has no significant effect on sorting. This evidence suggests that adaptability reduces the psychological cost of migrating, whereas cognitive skills increase the monetary returns associated with migration.

Suggested Citation

Butikofer, Aline and Peri, Giovanni, Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills and the Selection and Sorting of Migrants (September 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23877. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3046390

Aline Butikofer (Contact Author)

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway

Giovanni Peri

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States
530-752-3033 (Phone)
530-752-9382 (Fax)

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