Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2015

Trade, Migration, and the Place Premium: Mexico and the United States

Davide Gandolfi, Timothy Halliday, Raymond Robertson

March 2015

Center for Global Development


Large wage differences between countries (“place premiums”) are well documented. Theory suggests that factor price convergence should follow increased migration, capital flows, and commercial integration. All three have characterized the relationship between the United States and Mexico over the last 25 years. This paper evaluates the degree of wage convergence between these countries during the period 1988 and 2011. We match survey and census data from Mexico and the United States to estimate the change in wage differentials for observationally identical workers over time. We find very little evidence of convergence. What evidence we do find is most likely due to factors unrelated to US-Mexico integration. While migration and trade liberalization may reduce the US-Mexico wage differential, these effects are small when compared to the overall wage gap.