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Irvin Rojas presented structural econometric model of the dynamic migration game at Latin American Meeting of the Econometric Society


Cornell University DEEP-GREEN-RADAR Graduate Research Associate Rubén Irvin Rojas Valdés presented his structural econometric model of the dynamic migration game at the Latin American Meeting of the Econometric Society (LAMES) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

For his research, Irvin is studying migration decisions of rural households in Mexico. Given the economic significance of migration and its relevance for policy, it is important to understand the factors that cause people to migrate. Irvin is developing and estimating a structural econometric model of the dynamic and strategic decisions of households regarding migration decisions in rural Mexico. In particular, he is modeling and estimating their decisions as a dynamic game between households within a village. The structural econometric model he is developing is sophisticated and at the frontier of the literature. He is using this model to simulate the effects of counterfactual policy scenarios, including those regarding wages, schooling, crime rates at the border, precipitation, and government policy, on migration decisions and welfare.

Irvin’s structural econometric model of dynamic and strategic decision-making enables him to answer the following questions. First, how do natural factors, economic factors, government policies, and neighborhood effects affect the strategic and dynamic decision-making behavior of households in rural Mexico? Second, how do different institutions and policies affect this behavior and its outcome? Third, how should we design institutions and policies so that the decision-making behavior and outcome that are realized increase social welfare?

There are several advantages to Irvin’s dynamic structural econometric model. First, Irvin’s dynamic structural model explicitly models the dynamics of migration decisions. Second, Irvin’s dynamic structural model incorporates continuation values that explicitly model how expectations about future affect current decisions. Third, Irvin’s structural econometric model of a dynamic game enables him to estimate structural parameters of the underlying dynamic game with direct economic interpretations. These structural parameters include parameters that measure the effects of state variables on household net benefits, and the net effect of neighborhood effects. These parameters account for the continuation value. Fourth, Irvin uses the parameter estimates calculate welfare. Fifth, Irvin uses the parameter estimates to simulate the effects of counterfactual scenarios on decisions and welfare.

In addition to the Latin American Meeting of the Econometric Society (LAMES), Irvin has presented his research as an invited seminar speaker in the Economics Department at the University of San Francisco; at Cornell University; at the Oxford Symposium on Population, Migration, and the Environment at Oxford University; at the CIRET International Conference on Migration and Welfare in Rome; at the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Annual Meeting; at the Pacific Conference for Development Economics; at the Midwest International Economic Development Conference; at the North East Universities Development Consortium Conference (NEUDC); and at the University of California at Davis.

Irvin has won several prestigious awards for his research, including the UC-Davis Graduate Student Travel Award; the Gifford Center Travel Award; the Henry A. Jastro Graduate Research Award; the Blum Center for Developing Economics Poverty Alleviation through Sustainable Solutions (PASS) Project Grant; a grant from the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS); and the UC-Davis Fellowship for Excellence in Graduate Research. He was one of only a few Ph.D. students worldwide entering the job market this Fall 2017 who were selected for the 2017 Western Economic Association International Graduate Student Dissertation Workshop.


For further reading:

  • Rojas Valdés, Rubén Irvin, C.-Y. Cynthia Lin Lawell, and J. Edward Taylor. (2018). The dynamic migration game: A structural econometric model and application to rural Mexico. Working paper, Cornell University.
    [Working paper]