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Understanding Migrants' Choices

Project Summary

The project seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the key drivers of migrants’ choices and the constraints they face, thereby enhancing the evidence base for policy formulation. Migrants may be temporary or permanent, planning to return or to stay, legal or illegal. Migrants who plan to return have little incentive to assimilate and invest in country-specific human capital whilst permanent migrants do. Illegal migrants’ choice sets are severely constrained because they are breaking the law. In order to understand the distribution of outcomes in the labour market, the financial market and social sphere (‘assimilation’), we need to understand migrants’ choices, which are in turn driven by incentives and by constraints.

Explicitly recognising these differences in types and the resulting multi-facetted nature of migration, we plan six projects which compare these groups in terms of characteristics and outcomes, relative to each other, to natives, and also cross-nationally by host and sending countries. Project 1 focuses explicitly on return migrants, while Project 2 compares legal and illegal migrants. Project 3 examines income, consumption and asset accumulation of migrants and natives, whilst project 4 focuses on access to homeownership. Project 5 examines the role of networks as a driver of choices. Project 6 integrates the insights of the previous projects into one coherent macro framework, and uses this to conduct realistic policy evaluations.

Our projects combine innovative theoretical modelling with rigorous state-of-the-art estimation. Despite their separate presentations, these projects interlink and use European data for the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Sweden. When considering the impacts of return migration on sending countries we use data from the Maghreb. The significance of our research questions arises from their policy relevance: policies which ignore the key drivers of migrants’ choices are unlikely to fulfil their objectives.

Project Personnel

Participants Name Institution Country
Principal Investigator Jackline Wahba University of Southampton United Kingdom
Co-Applicant Govert Bijwaard The Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) The Netherlands
Co-Applicant Xavier Mateos-Planas Queen Mary University United Kingdom
Co-Applicant Mark Trede Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster Germany
Co-Applicant Yves Zenou Stockholm University Sweden
Co-Applicant Hector Calvo-Pardo University of Southampton United Kingdom


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