Paper #3 (Migration)

Published on

– Hard copy due in class Friday 25 March 2016 –

The purpose of this assignment is to get you to read carefully two standard economics papers that include formal statistical analysis, and then to discuss one or more findings from these papers using examples from Miller’s China’s Urban Billion (and potentially Hessler’s Country Driving). Some of your examples will be consistent with the empirical findings, “normal” or average behavior. Some may not – not everyone is average.

You should obviously locate overlapping papers. You may for example focus on the links between migration and public health or education or inequality. You may want to ask how migrants fare in cities. You may want to focus on how return migrants fare (such as Wei Ziqi in Hessler). Do they tend to start small businesses, that is, are return migrants prone to become entrepreneurs? Or do most return because they were failures, and don’t do much better back home? Migration is gendered. How do female migrants differ in characteristics, types of work, and outcomes?

To assist you I provide an extensive bibliography, albeit without annotations, loosely categorized. So once you find a topic that interests you, you should do a quick scan for others on the list that I might have put under a different heading. There are a few exceptions for older papers and book chapters, but you can locate almost all of them through one of our standard databases (EconPapers and so on) without resorting to interlibrary loan. I provide links to EconPapers and EconLit on the course web site. For published papers, you can also use the Full Text Journals List on the W&L library web site.

You may organize your paper as you judge best, but I suggest that make one paper your primary focus. What is the topic, what data do they use (recent? household? urban or rural?) and what are the key variables on which they focus? What do they find? Then complement your discussion with the findings of the second paper and with illustrative examples from the case studies provided by Miller.

Most empirical papers examine a variety of factors; focus on one or two that you believe key. Formal analysis is ultimately a presentation of statistical correlations, not tight causation. If for example the paper argues factor X makes someone Y% more likely to migrate, well, some still don’t.

Note that empirical work inevitably draws upon datasets that reflect observed behavior in a specific timeframe and locus. Different data sets won’t give the same results, because of minor (and not so minor!) variations in how they are collected. The sorts of things you can ferret out through household data from a group of villages are different from what you can elicit from a large national sample. Furthermore China’s society is not static, and the underlying nature of migration has shifted over time. So in the end, you need to ask yourself whether you find the results compelling, and if results are inconsistent, is that due to the better or different data, or because the behavior on which the paper focuses actually varies across time or with income or from region to region?

If you’ve had econometrics, then you should also read the empirical methodology. Trying to distinguish causation from correlation is a major challenge for work on migration. Are reverse causation or joint causation likely? If so, how do the authors address that? In addition, pay attention to whether it is a “probit” or “logit” regression. How (if at all!) does that differ from the standard linear regression you have studied? (We’ll read one such paper for class.)

To reiterate, you should conclude your paper with your judgement on whether the papers are compelling. Do they leave out factors you suspect are critical? Is there sample small or otherwise unrepresentative? Are their data old? [Note: the word “data” is plural! – “datum” would be singular.] Finally, statistical averages won’t reflect real people; no one is exactly average! What Miller sees may not be consistent with the behavior measured some years back.

As before, use in-line citations, with a bibliography at the end of your essay (Chicago is a format I like), not in the prose. Obviously I’ve formatted lots of citations. If you choose a paper not on my list, follow my example (cut-and-paste, don’t retype!!). As always, state your topic clearly in your first paragraph. Avoid verbosity; eschew the passive voice. And if the Writing Center is booked, at least get a proofreader!