Dario Diodato, Ricardo Hausmann, and Frank Neffke (2020), Papers in Evolutionary Economic Geography n.20.12
We study the effect of return migration from the U.S. to Mexico on the economies of Mexican cities. In principle, returnees increase the local labor supply and therefore put pressure on wages and employment rates of locals. However, having worked in the technologically more advanced US economy, they may also possess skills that complement the skills of local workers or even bring in new organizational and technological know-how that leads to productivity improvements in Mexico. Using an instrument based on involuntary return migration due to deportation by US authorities, we find evidence in support of both effects. Returnees affect wages of locals in different ways: whereas workers who share the returnees’ occupations experience a fall in wages, workers in other occupations see their wages rise. However, the latter, positive, effect is easily overlooked, because it is highly localized: it only affects coworkers within the same city-industry cell. Moreover, both, positive and negative, wage effects are transitory and eventually disappear. In contrast, by raising the employment levels of the industry in which they find jobs, returnees permanently alter a city’s industry composition.