Returns to International Migration: Evidence from a Bangladesh-Malaysia Visa Lottery

South Asians working temporarily in richer Asian nations is the world’s largest international migration corridor. We track down 3,512 (of 1.4 million) applicants to a government lottery that randomly allocated visas to Bangladeshis for low-skilled, temporary labor contracts in Malaysia, five years after the lottery. Most lottery winners migrate and migrants’ earnings triple. Their remittance raises their family’s standard of living in Bangladesh. The migrant’s absence pauses marriage and childbirth, and shifts decision-making power towards females. Migration removes enterprising individuals, lowering household entrepreneurship, but does not crowd out other family members’ labor supply. One group of applicants were offered deferred migration that never materialized. Improved migration prospects induce pre-migration investments in skills that generate no returns in the domestic market. 

DOI: 10.1257/app.20220258

Year of Publication: