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  • Working paper (3)
This paper introduces a spatial equilibrium model that relates earnings, employment, and internal migration responses to minimum wage increases. Population moves to or away from regions that increase minimum wages depending on the labor demand elasticity and on the financing of unemployment benefits. The empirical evidence shows that increases in minimum wages lead to increases in average wages and decreases in employment among the low-skilled. The labor demand elasticity is estimated to be above 1, in the model a necessary condition for the migration responses observed in the data. Low-skilled workers tend to leave the regions that increase minimum wages.


Previous literature shows that internal migration rates are strongly procyclical. This would seem to imply that geographic relocation does not help mitigate negative local economic shocks during recessions. This paper shows that this is not the case. I document that net in-migrationrates decreased in areas more affected by the Great Recession. Using various IV strategies that rely on the importance of the construction sector and the indebtedness of households before the crisis, I conclude that internal migration might help to alleviate up to one third of the effects of the crisis on wages in the most affected locations. This is due to a disproportionate decrease in in-migration into those locations rather than an increase in out-migration. More generally, I show that differences in population growth rates across locations are mainly explained by differences in in-migration rates rather than in out-migration rates. I introduce a model to guide the empirical analysis and to quantify the spill-over effects caused by internal migration.

How does the US labor market absorb low-skilled immigration? I address this question using the 1995 Mexican Peso Crisis, an exogenous push factor that raised Mexican migration to the US. In the short run, high-immigration states see their low-skilled labor force increase and native low-skilled wages decrease, with an implied local labor demand elasticity of -.7. Internal relocation dissipates this shock spatially. In the long run, the only lasting consequences are for low-skilled natives who entered the labor force in high-immigration years. A simple quantitative many-region model allows me to obtain the counterfactual local wage evolution absent the immigration shock.