Hiring: Postdoctoral Researcher

We have an open position for a

Post-Doctoral Researcher (30 months, 80% FTE)

The start date will be 1 September 2021 or as agreed. The successful applicant is expected to contribute to a research project on the long-term impact of refugee shocks on the labour market, health, reproductive behaviour, well-being, and attitudinal outcomes of the resident population (quasi-experimental setup).

Requirements: You have completed a doctorate in one of the social sciences (preferably economics; sociology, or political sciences). Excellent knowledge of quantitative methods is required (preferably Stata or R). The project uses register data, as well as data from the Labour Force Survey, the Swiss Health Survey, post-election surveys, and results from selected referendums and popular initiatives. You are open to collaborate in an inter-disciplinary team. Experience in the analysis of register data, matching datasets, experimental methods and a keen interest in immigration, health, or labour market outcomes are an asset. Excellent written and oral command of English is required; knowledge of French or German is an asset.

You will be attached to the Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies at the University of Neuchâtel (http://www.unine.ch/sfm/) and will join a team in economics, sociology, and demography. An affiliation to the national centre of excellence NCCR on the move (https://nccr-onthemove.ch/) is possible and will open up exchange with other postdocs and researchers across the country.

Benefits: The salary is in accordance with the university guidelines (https://www.unine.ch/srh/post-doctorant-e-s-fns). There is a budget for conference participation, and we will support you develop your own research agenda.

Employer: The position is based at the University of Neuchâtel. The University of Neuchâtel is an equal opportunities employer. Qualified women and candidates with a migration history are encouraged to apply.

Submitting application: Applications (letter of intent, CV, names of two referees, a relevant research paper as a writing sample) should be submitted as a single PDF to didier.ruedin@unine.ch (also for queries). The position is open until filled; for full consideration, apply by 15 June 2021.

Postdoc: Economics of Migration

Here’s an exciting opportunity with Prof. Martina Viarengo at the Graduate Institute.

The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies is recruiting

Postdoc in Economics of Migration (80%)

The successful applicant is expected to carry out research and contribute to research projects in the area of international migration, education and labor markets, under the supervision of Professor Martina Viarengo. This position is financed by the nccr – on the move.T

– PhD in Economics or related fields;
– Areas of expertise: economics, applied econometrics, migration;
– Promising publication record;
– Experience with econometric and statistical software (e.g. Stata, R);

– Excellent oral and written command of English (knowledge of French would be an asset).

The position is based at The Graduate Institute, Geneva, with periodical travels to the University of Neuchâtel. The initial appointment will be for a year, with a possibility of extension. Starting date: June 1st 2021 or upon mutual agreement.

Period of contract: June 1st to May 31st 2022. Applications should be submitted online at the Graduate Institute before the 31st of October 2020: https://erecruit.graduateinstitute.ch/recrutement/?page=advertisement_display&id=295.

Interested candidates should submit their application consisting of a CV, cover letter and a research paper. Two academic references should be submitted directly by the referees to Prof. Viarengo by e-mail at martina.viarengo@graduateinstitute.ch before the 31st of October 2020 (title: NCCR – PostDoc Position). For additional information, please contact Prof. Viarengo by e-mail.

Click to access 202007_GradInst_PostDoc_Economics_Viarengo.pdf

Causal Inference: The Mixtape

Here’s a nice overview of causal inference by Scott Cunningham. Yes, you get an entire book as a free download, and it’s got you covered from probability to Pearl’s directed acyclical graphs, from instrumental variables to synthetic control. It comes across quite friendly, but has enough econometrics to scare many off. I quite enjoyed the historical bits thrown in here and there to explain where the methods came from.


Taxing immigrants is likely to deter them: some data

In Switzerland, there’s currently a discussion on taxing immigrants (well make them pay a fee, not really a tax: “Zuwandererabgabe”) as a means to reduce regulate immigration. The intuition is straightforward: immigrants cause costs to the country of destination (infrastructure, environment), and we can recover at least some of the expenses from them. Reiner Eichenberger suggests to tax immigrants (refugees excluded) between CHF 12 and 15 every day (he likens this to a visitor’s tax tourists pay) for the first 3 to 5 years — that’s around CHF 5000 a year. This does not affect the freedom to move, but introduces costs which he argues would reduce immigration.

George Sheldon highlights that such an immigrant tax would most likely be covered by employers, not the immigrants. Immigrant workers can choose between many countries (of destination), while the employers need a worker in a particular location: this gives the immigrant worker more power in negotiating who covers a potential immigrant tax. An immigrant tax is also an opportunity cost, so immigrants are likely to stay longer — which actually increases the share of immigrants in Switzerland.


In this debate, alternative payments are also discussed, such as deposits. What lacks, however, is any empirical data on how immigrants are likely to react. Well, here I present data from a non-representative survey I conducted in April 2011 — when this idea of taxing immigrants was discussed last time (I wrote some of the text below in 2011, too) . The survey covers university students in Germany (Osnabrück) and Albania (Tirana), and asks about plans to emigrate. It also asks whether the prospect of paying a deposit or a non-refundable fee would deter them. Let’s be clear that these are survey questions, so we can only capture what they say, not actual behaviour; and university students may be a particular group. There are 122 responses from German students, and 41 from Albanian students in the data, studying many different degrees.

The intuition behind the case selection was to capture two different immigrant population — taking the perspective of Switzerland. On the one hand, there are the typically highly-skilled immigrants from Western Europe. They constitute a group of immigrants often considered benevolently, although not unreservedly so. On the other hand, Albanians are often regarded with suspicion in Switzerland, regardless of their qualification. Cultural differences tend to be highlighted in popular discourse. The expectation is that both in Germany and Albania, university graduates are a population of potential emigrants, although it would be wrong to expect everyone considering emigration.

The survey included a series of question asking respondents what is important in life (family, friends, politics, money, religion), and a number of attitudinal items. These attitudinal items capture whether men should be privileged over women if jobs are scarce, and if the native population should be privileged in the same situation. Further items asked whether immigrants should integrate better, if immigrants should keep their traditions or whether they should adjust to local customs.


In the absence of data, what could we expect? On the one hand, from a purely economic perspective, it can be expected that migration fees and deposits are a deterrent to migration. Other things being equal, a rational profit-maximizing individual will choose a different country of destination, where no such migration fee is levied. At the same time, the presence of a migration fee or a deposit could act as an important signal to potential migrants: that they are not welcome, or only welcome under specific circumstances. The migration fee in this case acts as a symbolic rather than economic disincentive. In either case, the expectation is that the presence of migration fees and deposits would influence migration decisions.

In economic terms, there is a difference between a migration fee and a deposit. A migration fee is non-refundable, and can be regarded as an (artificial) opportunity cost. A deposit, in contrast, is refundable under certain circumstances. It can act as insurance against costs to the country of destination — particularly in relation to crime and efforts to extradite unwanted immigrants. Given its potentially refundable nature, economic incentives may differ. The willingness to pay a small deposit is expected to be higher than the willingness to pay a migration fee and a high deposit.


58% of respondents have thought about emigrating after their studies. Of these, however, 63% have no concrete plans, and only 16% have gathered information. 25% have considered moving to Switzerland, 75% have only considered different countries.

In Germany, 61% of respondents have thought about emigrating after their studies, of which 69% have no concrete plans, and 11% have gathered information. 30% have considered Switzerland.

In Albania, 51% of respondents have thought about emigrating after their studies, of which 43% have no concrete plans, and 33% have gathered information. 10% have considered Switzerland.

What’s important to choose a country of destination? 73% mentioned job opportunities, 36% career opportunities, 28% friends, 16% the salary, 36% living costs, and 16% migration costs. For 57% language is an important criterion. 38% think they need a concrete job offer, and for 36% their partner is a deciding factor.

How important are migration costs? None of them thought that costs were irrelevant, but fewer than half (47%) consider these costs central or rather central.

Would an immigration fee affect your choice of country? Let’s look at the percentage of respondents stating that such a fee would affect their choice of country, beginning with refundable deposits:

€1,000: 18% think this affects their choice
€5,000: 43% think this affects their choice
€10,000: 78% think this affects their choice
€20,000: 84% think this affects their choice

So yes, migration fees seem to affect the choice of country, but only the larger amounts can deter the majority — and for 16% paying €20k is not enough to change their minds…

How about non-refundable fees?

€1,000, non-refundable: 42% think this affects their choice
€5,000, non-refundable: 73% think this affects their choice
€10,000, non-refundable: 89% think this affects their choice
€20,000, non-refundable: 94% think this affects their choice

Unsurprisingly, non-refundable fees have a stronger ‘effect’, with lower amounts already having a significant impact. Given the general opportunity costs of moving to another country, the many respondents deterred by an additional €1,000 suggests that the symbolic component of such migration fees can be substantial — and migration fees are not only part of an economic cost-benefits analysis.

There appear to be no gender differences in the willingness to pay a migration fee, and differences in stated job prospects are not associated with differences in the willingness to pay a migration fee. Young individuals, however, seem more willing (or less reluctant) to pay. For this, I have simply added the responses to the different questions on migration fees (thus a higher value means more of the questions were answered with having an impact on country choice = more reluctance to pay). The correlation between age and the sum of the fee questions is 0.25 (p=0.016). Young individuals are generally more risk-taking, so this is not a surprise.

You can download the data from my Dataverse.