Persecution and migrant self-selection: evidence from the collapse of the communist bloc

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How does persecution affect who migrates? We analyze migrants’ self-selection out of the USSR and its satellite states before and after the collapse of Communism using census microdata from the three largest destination countries: Germany, Israel, and the United States. We find that migrants arriving before and around the time of the collapse (who were more likely to have moved because of persecution) were more educated and had better labor market outcomes in the destination than those arriving later. This change is not fully explained by the removal of emigration restrictions in the Communist Bloc. Instead, we show that this pattern is consistent with more positive self-selection of migrants who are motivated by persecution. When the highly educated disproportionately forgo migrating to enjoy the amenities of their home country, persecution can induce them to leave.


Abramitzky, Ran, Travis Baseler and Isabelle Sin. 2022. “Persecution and migrant selfselection: evidence from the collapse of the communist bloc". Motu Working Paper 22-07. Motu Economic and Public Policy Research. Wellington, New Zealand.

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