Does age-at-migration in childhood affect migrant socioeconomic achievements in adulthood?

Migrant populations consist of individuals who migrated at different stages in the development of their human capabilities. Age-at-migration refers to the age at which an individual migrates. This paper reviews some theoretical arguments and empirical evidence on whether a child’s age-at-migration alters the impact of migration on income, employment and other socioeconomic indicators in the adult phase of the child’s life. Most research looks at the contemporaneous impact of migration on children, whereas this paper considers the longitudinal impact of childhood migration on well-being throughout life. Age-at-migration might affect human capital and economic productivity, integration at destinations, and attachments to origins.
Studies show that children migrating at older ages ultimately achieve less total education (origin education plus destination education), weaker destination-language acquisition and lower earnings than those arriving as younger children; but they have higher adult earnings compared to those arriving as adults. There appears to be little difference between those arriving before age 5 years and those born at destination, which is surprising given considerable literature on the human development significance of early child ages (although this could be due to the limited availability of relevant empirical literature). Variations in the effects of age-at-migration are noted across migrant populations in different destination societies, which underline the possibility of public policy to influence such human development mechanisms.

Published 2012-06-29