This article provides theoretical reasoning and empirical evidence that international migration decisions are influenced by relative as well as absolute income considerations. Potential gains in absolute income through migration are likely to play an important role in households’ migration decisions, but international migration by household members who hold promise for success as labor migrants can also be an effective strategy to improve a household’s income position relative to others in the household’s reference group. The findings reported in this article provide empirical support for the hypothesis that relative deprivation plays a significant role in Mexico-to-U. S. migration decisions. The findings also suggest that this migration is an effective mechanism for achieving income gains in households that send migrants to the U.S. and that households wisely choose as migrants those of their members who are most likely to provide net income gains.
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