The search goes on: Parameter effects on the return migration decision

Wayne Edwards, Lee Huskey


In this paper we present an experiment designed to test some of the predictions of the Harris-Todaro model of migration. In particular, we examine determinants of an individual's return migration decisions. Data issues in the developing world and with migration data in general limit empirical testing of the model. In such a data environ-ment, laboratory experiments can add insight to the theory. We introduce an external opportunity to a traditional labour market search experiment to examine whether it extends search and unemployment in a primary market. Our results generally support the predictions of the model. The experiments predict that the possibility of return, the cost of return, and the existence of trophy wage opportunities in the urban market all reduce the likelihood of return migration.


Migration; Harris-Todaro model; unemployment; experimental economics; job search

Full Text:



Agesa, R. (2000). “The Incentive for Rural to Urban Migration: A Re-examination of the Harris-Todaro Model”. Applied Economic Letters, 7: 107-110.

Cox, J. C. and Oaxaca, R. (1992). “Direct Tests of the Reservation Wage Property”. The Economic Journal, 102: 1423-1432.

Davis, D. D. and Holt, C. A. (1993). Experimental Economics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Dustmann, C. (2003). “Return Migration, Wage Differentials and Optimal Migration Duration”. European Economic Review, 47: 353-369.

Edwards, W. and Huskey, L. (2008). “Job Search with an External Opportunity: An Experimental Exploration of the Todaro Paradox”. Annals of Regional Science, 42: 807-819.

Ghatak, S. and Levine, P. (1994). “A Note on Migration with Borrowing Constraints”. Scandinavian Journal of Development, 13: 19-38.

Greenwood, M. (1975). “Research on Internal Migration in the US: A Survey”. Journal of Economic Literature, 13: 397-433.

Greenwood, M., et al. (1991). “New Directions in Migration Research”. The Annals of Regional Science, 25: 237-270.

Harris, J.R. and Todaro, M. P. (1970). “Migration, Employment, and Development: A Two Sector Analysis”. American Economic Review, 81: 126-142.

Harrison, G. H. and Morgan, P. (1990). “Search Intensities in Experiments”. The Economic Journal, 100: 478-486.

Hey, J. D. (1982). “Search for Search Rules”. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 3: 65-81.

Hey, J. D. (1987). “Still Searching”. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 8: 137-144.

Ingene, C. (2001). “The State of the Art in Modeling Migration in LDCs: A Comment”. Journal of Regional Science, 41: 529-543.

Katz, E. and Stark, O. (1986). “Labor Migration and Risk Aversion in Less Developed Countries”. Journal of Labor Economics, 4: 134-149.

Laal, S., Selod, H., and Shalizi, Z. (2006). “Rural-Urban Migration in Developing Countries: a Survey of Theoretical predictions and Empirical Findings”. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3915 (May).

Lucas, R. (1997). “Internal Migration in Developing Countries”. In: M. R. Rosenweig and O. Stark (eds.) Handbook of Population and Family Economics, Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Lucas, R. (2001). “The Effects of Proximity and Transportation on Developing Country Population Migrations”. Journal of Economic Geography, 1: 323-339.

Martensen, D. T. and Pissarides, C. A. (1999). “New Developments in Models of Search in the Labor Market”. In: O. C. Ashenfelter and D. Card (eds.) Hand-book of Labor Economics, Volume 3B, Amsterdam: Elsevier.

McKenzie, D. (2012). Learning about Migration through Experiments. Discussion Paper Series No. 07/12. London: Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration.

Newbold, K.B. and Cicchino, S. (2007) “Inter-Regional Reurn and Onwards Migration in Canada: evidence Based on a Micro-Regional Analysis”. Canadian Journal of Regional Science, XXX (2): 211-226.

Sato, Y. (2004). “Migration, Frictional Unemployment, and Welfare-Improving Labor Policies”. Journal of Regional Science, 44: 773-793.

Smith, V. L. (1982). “Microeconomic Systems as an Experimental Science”. American Economic Review, 72.5: 923-955.

Smith, V. L. (1994). “Economics in the Laboratory”. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 8: 113-132.

Stark, O. (2003). “Tales of Migration without Wage Differentials: Individual, Family, and Community Contexts”. ZEF Discussion Papers on Development Policy, No. 73.

Stark, O. and Levhari, D. (1982). “On Migration and Risk in LDCs”. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 31: 191-196.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Transnational Press London

Copyright © 2003-2016 Migration Letters / Transnational Press London | All rights reserved | Contact Us