Do Migrants Pass Their Work Ethic to Their Children? Evidence from the Honduran National Household Survey

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Purpose – The scholarly literature that examines the economic assimilation of migrant families has focussed on the educational and economic achievements of the children of international migrants relative to the children of native born parents. Lower relative incomes of the children of immigrants might be attributable to discrimination, while higher relative incomes could be attributable to ambitious parents who produce more ambitious children. These potential effects have been difficult to disentangle. The purpose of this paper is to control for discrimination by examining internal migration in Honduras, allowing us to isolate evidence for or against the “ambition” effect. Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses the Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition technique to ask if the children of migrants are similar or different than their parents in their attitudes toward work and economic advancement. Findings – This study finds that migrants are relatively hard workers in the sense that they experience relatively high marginal effects on earnings from improved socio-economic characteristics, such as years of schooling. The study also finds that these migrants do not pass on this hard-work ethic to their children, who experience much smaller marginal effects from increased years of schooling and other socio-economic characteristics. Originality/value – This study demonstrates that the children of migrants do not necessarily inherit the ambitious work ethic characteristic of their migrant parents. This result has important implications for studies that examine the assimilation and economic progress of migrant families, particularly those studies that use second-generation earnings as a measure of assimilation and economic progress.

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International Journal of Social Economics

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