Skip to main content


Log in

Labor Market Laws and Intra-European Migration: The Role of the State in Shaping Destination Choices

  • Published:
European Journal of Population Aims and scope Submit manuscript


This article investigates the relationship between migrants’ destination choices and the formal labor market access afforded by multiple potential host countries in the context of the EU’s eastward enlargement. We use an index of labor market access laws combined with data on migration from new EU member states into the existing states of the EU and EFTA from 2004 through 2010 to test whether (1) migrants are attracted to destinations that give them greater formal labor market access, (2) migration flows to any given destination are influenced by the labor market policies of competing destinations, and (3) the influence of labor market laws on migrant flows is mediated by social networks, language ability, and educational level. Our data support the first two propositions and partly support the third: Migration between origin/destination pairs was positively associated with the loosening of destination labor market restrictions, while negatively associated with the loosening of competing destinations’ labor market restrictions. In addition, the influence of destination labor market access appears to be weaker for destinations in which migrants have larger existing co-national networks, and for migrants from countries with languages that are more similar to the destination language, although we do not discern a clear mediating effect of education level. Our models also include variables for a set of economic indicators, social welfare spending, geographic distance, and historical relationships, and the estimated coefficients on these variables are largely in line with theoretical predictions. By combining rich EU data with a unique approach to evaluating competing legal regimes, the analysis helps us better understand how law shapes migration in a multi-destination world.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. We use this term in the sense of Ostrom et al. (1961) to connote multiple centers of decision making that are formally independent but may end up in competitive or cooperative relationships. This is related to the notion of polycentric problems, discussed in the context of adjudication by Fuller (1978), Henderson (1975), and others.

  2. All of these theories are discussed in detail in Massey et al. (2002).

  3. Theoretical models are also often simplified in this respect to avoid the mathematical complications introduced by multiple origins and destinations (Borjas 1989).

  4. For instance, the employer may need to prove that there is no native or unrestricted EU-national worker available on the labor market for the position.

  5. Treaty of Accession to the European Union 2003, Annexes V-XIV, O.J. L 236 (Sept. 23, 2003).

  6. European Parliament and Council Directive 2004/38/EC of 29 April 2004, O.J. L 158 (Apr. 30, 2004).

  7. The UK put in place a mandatory workers registration scheme for monitoring purposes, but did not restrict access in substantive ways (European Commission 2009).

  8. This dataset is an updated and expanded version of that used in Pedersen and Pytliková (2008) and Pedersen et al (2008).

  9. The OECD International Migration Database is the source for data on migration to Chile, Israel, Korea, Mexico, the Russian Federation, and Turkey, and Eurostat is the source for migration to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, and Slovenia.

  10. As with other existing datasets of this type, we measure only migration events that have been recorded in official documents. This is a drawback in that increases in documented migration may be related to simultaneous decreases in clandestine migration. We are not able to disentangle such dynamics due to the difficulty of measuring clandestine migration.

  11. See The distance measurements are from the dist variable, which is constructed as the geodesic distance between each state’s most populous city (Mayer and Zignago 2011).

  12. We lack data on stocks for 39 (4 %) of the total of 994 country-pair-years, but we have tested the robustness of our results by fitting all models using imputed data in addition to dropping records with missing stocks.

  13. Note, however, that stocks depend also on outmigration and death rates, which are likely to be uncorrelated with current inflows, making the potential existence of endogeneity not at all a straightforward issue.

  14. The consistency of the GMM estimator depends on the validity of the moment conditions being exploited and therefore we check the validity by the Sargan (1958)/Hansen (1982) test of over-identifying restrictions. Furthermore, Arellano and Bond (1991) propose two tests for first-order and second-order serial correlation for the disturbances of the first-differenced equation (A–B tests). In our models, the Sargan test is rejecting the null, whereas the Hansen test is failing to reject. We suspect that since, in contrast to the Hansen test, the Sargan test is not distributed as Chi square under heteroskedasticity, the existing heteroskedasticity could cause the Sargan test to incorrectly reject the null. From our A–B tests, we can see that we have no serial correlation in the first-order errors, but second-order GMM residual serial correlation.


  • Adsera, A, & Pytliková, M. (forthcoming). The role of language in shaping international migration. The Economic Journal.

  • Arellano, M., & Bond, S. (1991). Some tests of specification for panel data: Monte Carlo evidence and an application to employment equations. Review of Economic Studies, 58(2), 277–297.

  • Arellano, M., & Bover, O. (1995). Another look at the instrumental variable estimation of error components models. Journal of Econometrics, 68(1), 29–51.

  • Beine, M., Docquier, F., & Özden, C. (2011). Diasporas. Journal of Development Economics, 95(1), 30–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Belot, M., & Ederveen, S. (2012). Cultural barriers in migration between OECD countries. Journal of Population Economics, 25(3), 1077–1105.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Belot, M., & Hatton, T. (2008). Immigrant selection in the OECD. C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

  • Bertoli, S., & Fernández-Huertas Moraga, J. (2013). Multilateral resistance to migration. Journal of Development Economics, 102, 79–100.

  • Bijak, J. (2010). Forecasting International Migration in Europe: A Bayesian View. The Springer Series on Demographic Methods and Population Analysis Series. Berlin: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blundell, R., & Bond, S. (1998). Initial conditions and moment restrictions in dynamic panel data models. Journal of Econometrics, 87(1), 115–143.

  • Borjas, G. J. (1987). Self-selection and the earnings of immigrants. American Economic Review, 77(4), 531–553.

    Google Scholar 

  • Borjas, G. J. (1989). Economic theory and international migration. International Migration Review, 23(3), 457–485.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Borjas, G. J. (2006). Native internal migration and the labor market impact of immigration. Journal of Human Resources, 41(2), 221–258.

  • Card, D. (2001). Immigrant inflows, native outflows, and the local labor market impacts of higher immigration. Journal of Labor Economics, 19(1), 22–64.

  • Card, D. (2005). Is the new immigration really so bad? The Economic Journal, 115(507), 300–323.

  • Clark, X., Hatton, T. J., & Williamson, J. G. (2007). Explaining U.S. immigration, 1971–1998. Review of Economics and Statistics, 89(2), 359–373.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cobb-Clark, D., & Connolly, M. (1997). The worldwide market for skilled migrants: Can Australia compete? International Migration Review, 31(3), 670–693.

  • Cornelius, W., Martin, P., & Hollifield, J. (1994). Controlling immigration: A global perspective. Redwood City: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • DeWaard, J., Kim, K., & Raymer, J. (2012). Migration systems in Europe: Evidence from harmonized flow data. Demography, 49(4), 1307–1333.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • European Commission. (2002). Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of Directive 94/80/EC on the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections.

  • European Commission. (2008). Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of Directive 2004/38/ec on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the member states.

  • European Commission. (2009). Five years of an enlarged EU: Economic achievements and challenges.

  • Fuller, L. (1978). The forms and limits of adjudication. Harvard Law Review, 92(2), 353–409.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fussell, E., & Massey, D. S. (2004). The limits to cumulative causation: International migration from Mexican urban areas. Demography, 41(1), 151–171.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gelman, A., Carlin, J. B., Stern, H. S., Dunson, D. B., Vehtari, A., & Rubin, D. B. (2013). Bayesian data analysis. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gelman, A., & Hill, J. (2006). Data analysis using regression and multilevel/hierarchical models. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Giulietti, C., Guzi, M., Kahanec, M., & Zimmermann, K. F. (2013). Unemployment benefits and immigration: Evidence from the EU. International Journal of Manpower, 34(1/2), 24–38.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grogger, J., & Hanson, G. H. (2011). Income maximization and the selection and sorting of international migrants. Journal of Development Economics, 95(1), 42–57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hailbronner, K. (2007). Free movement of EU nationals and Union citizenship. In R. Cholewinski, R. Perruchoud, & E. MacDonald (Eds.), International migration law: Developing paradigms and key challenges. The Hague: TMC Asser Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hansen, L. P. (1982). Large sample properties of generalized method of moments estimators. Econometrica, 50(4). 1029–1054.

  • Hanson, G. H., & McIntosh, C. (2010). The great Mexican emigration. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 92(4), 798–810.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harris, J., & Todaro, M. (1970). Migration, unemployment and development: A two-sector analysis. American Economic Review, 60, 126–142.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hatton, T. J. (2005). Explaining trends in UK immigration. Journal of Population Economics, 18(4), 719–740.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hatton, T. J., & Leigh, A. (2011). Immigrants assimilate as communities, not just as individuals. Journal of Population Economics, 24(2), 389–419.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hatton, T. J., & Williamson, J. G. (2002). Out of Africa? Using the past to project African emigration pressure in the future. Review of International Economics, 10(3), 556–573.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Henderson, J. A. (1975). Expanding the negligence concept: Retreat from the rule of law. Indiana Law Journal, 51, 475.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hicks, J. R. (1932). The theory of wages. London: Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Joppke, C. (2001). The evolution of alien rights in the United States, Germany, and the European Union. In T. A. Aleinikoff & D. B. Klusmeyer (Eds.), Citizenship Today: Global Perspectives and Practices. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kim, K., & Cohen, J. E. (2010). Determinants of international migration flows to and from industrialized countries: A panel data approach beyond gravity. International Migration Review, 44(4), 899–932.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Massey, D. S. (1990). Social structure, household strategies, and the cumulative causation of migration. Population Index, 56(1), 3–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Massey, D. S., Arango, J., Hugo, G., Kouaouci, A., Pellegrino, A., & Taylor, J. E. (1993) Theories of international migration: A review and appraisal. Population and Development Review, 19(3), 431–466.

  • Massey, D. S., Arango, J., Hugo, G., Kouaouci, A., Pellegrino, A., & Taylor, J. E. (2002). Worlds in motion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Massey, D. S., & Espinosa, K. E. (1997). What’s driving Mexico-U.S. migration? A theoretical, empirical, and policy analysis. The American Journal of Sociology, 102, 939–999.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mayda, A. M. (2010). International migration: A panel data analysis of the determinants of bilateral flows. Journal of Population Economics, 23(4), 1249–1274.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mayer, T., & Zignago, S. (2011) Notes on CEPII’s distances measures (geodist). CEPII Working Paper 2011-25.

  • McKenzie, D., Theoharides, C., & Yang, D. (2014). Distortions in the international migrant labor market: Evidence from filipino migration and wage responses to destination country economic shocks. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 6(2), 49–75.

    Google Scholar 

  • Munshi, K. (2003). Networks in the modern economy: Mexican migrants in the US labor market. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118, 549–599.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ortega, F., & Peri, G. (2013). The effect of income and immigration policies on international migration. Migration Studies, 1(1), 47–74.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ostrom, V., Tiebout, C., & Warren, R. (1961). The organization of government in metropolitan areas: A theoretical inquiry. The American Political Science Review, 55(4), 831–842.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Palloni, A., Massey, D. S., Ceballos, M., Espinosa, K., & Spittel, M. (2001). Social capital and international migration: A test using information on family networks. The American Journal of Sociology, 106(5), 1262–1298.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Palmer, J. (2014). The changing legal value of naturalization: A set of indices quantifying the gaps between immigrants’ and citizens’ rights in 22 OECD countries, working paper.

  • Pedersen, P. J., & Pytliková, M. (2008). EU enlargement: Migration flows from Central and Eastern Europe into the Nordic countries-exploiting a natural experiment, working Paper, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.

  • Pedersen, P. J., Pytliková, M., & Smith, N. (2006). Migration into OECD countries 1990-2000. In T. M. Smeeding (Ed.), Immigration and the transformation of Europe (pp. 43–84). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Pedersen, P. J., Pytliková, M., & Smith, N. (2008). Selection and network effects: Migration flows into OECD countries 1990-2000. European Economic Review, 52, 1160–1186.

  • Peri, G., & Sparber, C. (2009). Task specialization, immigration, and wages. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 1(3), 135–169.

  • Piore, M. J. (1979). Birds of Passage: Migrant Labor and Industrial Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Portes, A. (1997). Immigration theory for a new century: Some problems and opportunities. International Migration Review, 31, 799–825.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Portes, A., & Walton, J. (1981). Labor, class, and the international system. Waltham: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • R Core Team (2014). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.

  • Sargan, J. D. (1958). The estimation of economic relationships using instrumental variables. Econometrica, 26(3), 393–415.

  • Schuck, P. H. (2000). Law and the study of migration. In J. F. Hollifield & C. B. Brettell (Eds.), Migration theory: Talking across disciplines. London: Psychology Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shachar, A. (2006). The race for talent: Highly skilled migrants and competitive immigration regimes. New York University Law Review, 81, 148–206.

  • Simpson, N. B., & Sparber, C. (2012). The short-and long-run determinants of less-educated immigrant flows into US states. Southern Economic Journal, 80(2), 414–438.

  • Sjaastad, L. A. (1962). The costs and returns of human migration. The Journal of Political Economy, 70(5), 80–93.

  • Stan Development Team (2014a). Rstan: the R interface to Stan, version 2.5.0.

  • Stan Development Team (2014b). Stan: A C++ library for probability and sampling, version 2.5.0.

  • Stark, O., & Bloom, D. E. (1985). The new economics of labor migration. The American Economic Review, 75(2), 173–178.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stark, O., & Taylor, J. E. (1991). Migration incentives, migration types: The role of relative deprivation. The Economic Journal, 101(408), 1163–1178.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • State, B., Rodriguez, M., Helbing, D., & Zagheni, E. (2014). Migration of professionals to the US. In L. M. Aiello & D. McFarland (Eds.), Social Informatics (pp. 531–543). Springer International Publishing.

  • Todaro, M. P. (1969). A model of labor migration and urban unemployment in less developed countries. The American Economic Review, 59(1), 138–148.

    Google Scholar 

  • Waldinger, R. D., & Lichter, M. I. (2003). How the other half works. California: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wallerstein, I. (1974). The modern world-system. New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zolberg, A. R. (1989). The next waves: Migration theory for a changing world. International Migration Review, 23(3), 403–430.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


Special thanks to Marta Tienda, Rafaela Dancygier, Alicia Adsera, Kate Choi, Julia Gelatt, Melissa Martinson, Fernanda Nicola, Anna Ginés, and the participants in the 2011 Emerging Immigration Law Scholars and Teachers Conference at American University and the II Annual Conference of the Spanish Association of Law and Economics at Pompeu Fabra University for their advice and comments on earlier drafts. Palmer’s work on this project was supported at Princeton University by grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (No. 5R24HD047879) and the National Institutes of Health (No. 5T32HD007163). Pytliková’s research was funded in part by the NORFACE research programme on Migration in Europe—Social, Economic, Cultural and Policy Dynamics (MI3-Migration: Integration, Impact and Interaction), from the Operational Programme Education for Competitiveness (No. CZ.1.07/2.3.00/20.0296), by a Czech Science Foundation grant (No. GA15-23177S) and by an SGS Research grant (No. SP2015/120). The map of Europe reproduced in Fig. 1 relies, for the administrative boundaries, on copyrighted data from EuroGeographics, permission for which has been granted by the European Commission.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to John R. B. Palmer.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (PDF 210 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Palmer, J.R.B., Pytliková, M. Labor Market Laws and Intra-European Migration: The Role of the State in Shaping Destination Choices. Eur J Population 31, 127–153 (2015).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: