Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 981–1008 | Cite as

Public beliefs in social mobility and high-skilled migration

  • Claudia LumpeEmail author
Original Paper


This paper investigates how beliefs of the destination country’s population in social mobility may influence the location choice of high-skilled migrants. We pool macro data from the IAB brain-drain dataset with population survey data from the ISSP for the period 1987–2010 to identify the effect of public beliefs in social mobility on the share of high-skilled immigrants (stocks) in the main OECD immigration countries. The empirical results suggest that countries with higher “American Dream” beliefs, i.e., with stronger beliefs that climbing the social ladder can be realized by own hard work, attracted a higher proportion of high-skilled immigrants over time. This pattern even holds against the fact that existing social mobility in these countries is relatively lower.


Immigration Public beliefs Social mobility Social status 

JEL Classification

F22 J62 J15 



This paper has been written during a research visit at RWI, Essen, and I am very grateful to RWI for its hospitality. I also thank Thomas K. Bauer, Julia Bredtmann, Christian Lumpe, Juergen Meckl, Matthias Goecke, Lisa Hoeckel, Jana Brandt, Caroline Schwientek, participants of the 19th Workshop on International Economics in Goettingen and the 29th EALE conference in St. Gallen as well as two anonymous referees for very helpful suggestions and comments on this paper. Financial support from the Fritz Thyssen Foundation within the framework of the project “Public attitudes and migration” is also gratefully acknowledged. All remaining errors are my own.

Funding Information

This study was funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation within the framework of the project “Public attitudes and migration.”

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsJustus-Liebig-University GiessenGiessenGermany
  2. 2.Research Department “Labor Markets, Education, Population”RWI – Leibniz-Institut für WirtschaftsforschungEssenGermany

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