Moving to opportunity, leaving behind what? Evaluating the initial effects of a migration policy on incomes and poverty in source areas
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Emigration to New Zealand and consequent remittance inflows are dominant features of many Pacific Island countries. Evaluating the effect of these people and money flows on incomes and poverty in the Pacific is potentially complicated by the non-random selection of emigrants. This paper uses the randomization provided by an immigration ballot under the Pacific Access Category (PAC) of New Zealand's immigration policy to address this problem. We survey applicants to the 2002-05 PAC ballots in Tonga and compare outcomes for the remaining family of emigrants with those for similar families who were unsuccessful in the ballots. We then contrast these estimates with more conventional ones that construct no-emigration counterfactuals by deducting remittance income from the remaining family of PAC emigrants and adding back the potential home earnings of emigrants. The results suggest that the economic welfare of remaining family may fall in the initial period after members of their household move to New Zealand. We also find that non-experimental methods of constructing counterfactual income are likely to work well only in rare situations where there is random selection of emigrants.