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Does migration result in people having greater aspirations for their future well-being, or are people with higher aspirations more likely to migrate, or both?

This paper by IMI's Mathias Czaika, with Marc Vothknecht, is about the connection between an individual’s decision to move from one country to another, and his or her expectations for future well-being. The authors ask whether future aspirations drive migration, or whether migration results in higher aspirations, or both.

They use data gathered from three waves of the Indonesian Family Life Survey between 1997 and 2007. The authors compared the well-being and aspirations of people who had migrated recently, and people who hadn’t migrated at all. People with recent migration experience did not rate their own well-being more highly than people who hadn’t migrated at all. Both groups seemed to be equally happy with their current economic situation. However, it was clear that people who had migrated did seem to be much more ambitious about their future well-being.

So what explains this difference in aspirations? Is it just that people who have greater aspirations are more likely to migrate? Or does the migration experience itself actually generate higher aspirations?

Download WP-57-2012: Migration as cause and consequence of aspirations