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Evaluation 1 of “The Benefits and Costs of Guest Worker Programs: Experimental Evidence from the India-UAE Migration Corridor” for The Unjournal.

Evaluation of “The Benefits and Costs of Guest Worker Programs: Experimental Evidence from the India-UAE Migration Corridor” for The Unjournal. Evaluator: Anonymous for now

Published onMay 16, 2024
Evaluation 1 of “The Benefits and Costs of Guest Worker Programs: Experimental Evidence from the India-UAE Migration Corridor” for The Unjournal.
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This is an evaluation of “The Benefits and Costs of Guest Worker Programs: Experimental Evidence from the India-UAE Migration Corridor”[1]. Please see further content below.

Summary Measures

We asked evaluators to give some overall assessments, in addition to ratings across a range of criteria. See the evaluation summary “metrics” for a more detailed breakdown of this. See these ratings in the context of all Unjournal ratings, with some analysis, in our data presentation here.1


90% Credible Interval

Overall assessment


70 - 85

Journal rank tier, normative rating


4.0 - 5.0

Overall assessment: We asked evaluators to rank this paper “heuristically” as a percentile “relative to all serious research in the same area that you have encountered in the last three years.” We requested they “consider all aspects of quality, credibility, importance to knowledge production, and importance to practice.”

Journal rank tier, normative rating (0-5): “On a ‘scale of journals’, what ‘quality of journal’ should this be published in? (See ranking tiers discussed here)” Note: 0= lowest/none, 5= highest/best”.

See here for the full evaluator guidelines, including further explanation of the requested ratings.

Written report

Overall, I find the project to be positive, and have provided detailed comments and suggestions below.

  1. Advancing knowledge and practice

The project attempts to estimate the individual returns to temporary migration of Indian construction workers to the UAE. This is a heavily debated topic with considerable welfare implications for both the source and destination countries, for which there is a significant gap in the literature. The authors do a good job of arguing the importance, neglectedness and tractability of their research question.

  1. Justification, reasonableness, validity, and robustness of methods

The methods are clearly justified and explained. The methods and underlying assumptions are reasonable and commonplace for an experimental set-up. The authors are open about potential sources of bias and the viability of the assumptions, and they discuss the representativeness of their sample, the attrition problem that comes with follow-up surveys, etc; and they address for these issues as they can.

However, there is a limitations in the methodology. When individuals could not be reached for follow-up surveys, their friends and family members were interviewed about the individual’s whereabouts and earnings instead (pp. 13 – 14). These observations are at an increased risk of measurement error than those where individuals themselves answered the survey. However, the authors do not discuss the possibility of measurement error here, or how to address it for the regressions where these observations are included.

  1. Logic and communication

Most concepts are clearly defined, and the reasoning is transparent. The data, analysis, tables and figures are relevant. The authors’ conclusions are consistent with the evidence.

However, two things are unclear. First, the terms of the contract between the labour broker and the job seeker (Background section, pp. 8 – 9) were unclear. Specifically, do job seekers have to pay the contingent agent fee if they are offered a job but decide not to take it? If not, this could be a reason why some individuals in the treatment group choose to remain in India, as the new increased wage they would get in the UAE is not enough to make it worthwhile to pay the contingent agent fee. In this case, the reasons for individuals choosing to remain in India are not necessarily non-pecuniary as argued by the authors. If data is available, it would be interesting to check for heterogeneity in the effects of the UAE job offer by the level of contingent agent fee, particularly as there is considerable variation in the fee amount (depicted in Table 1, pp. 8).

Second, in follow-up surveys individuals are recorded as either: (i) having migrated to the UAE, (ii) having stayed in their home district in India, or (iii) having moved to a new district in India (discussion in pp. 15-16, follow-up survey questions in Table A.5 pp 56-57). Here, a fourth option is that individuals migrate to foreign countries other than the UAE. It is unclear whether this option is assumed away, or whether it is simply a feature of the sample that none of the individuals migrated to another country.

  1. Open, communicative, replicable science

The methods are explained sufficiently, and the authors are open about potential limitations, discussing them at length. The authors make a variety of summary statistics and tables available. The original data is not provided, but this is commonplace in experimental set-ups.

  1. Other comments

Suggestion: when discussing the effect of the UAE job offer on individuals’ social networks, the authors do not control for the individual belonging to a minority or majority caste or religious group within their region. This data is straight-forward to get from the IDHS (which the authors use elsewhere in the paper). Adding this variable could show some interesting patterns regarding belonging to a “minority” or “majority” group at home and attitudes towards new friend groups once one becomes a migrant and therefore the minority.

Evaluator details

  1. How long have you been in this field?

    [Range coded to protect anonymity: 2-5 years]

  2. How many proposals, papers, and projects have you evaluated/reviewed (for journals, grants, or other peer-review)?

    • None, this is my first.

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