This article studies immobility aspirations – or aspirations to stay – among individuals with high migration propensities (aged 16 to 23) in Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam. Assuming that aspirations to stay are not simply the absence of migration aspirations, we explore which individual and household factors determine who aspires to stay and why, using unique survey data collected for the Young Lives project. We find that the majority of young people surveyed – between 61 percent (Ethiopia) and 82 percent (Vietnam) – aspire to stay in their home country. Between 32 percent (Ethiopia) and 57 percent (Vietnam) of young people aspired to stay at their current location, meaning they aspired to move neither internally nor internationally. Across country contexts, aspirations to stay were most often highest among the poorest. Further, the desire to stay decreases with higher levels of education, which suggests that widening access to formal schooling is an important driver of internal and international migration aspirations. Finally, respondents most often mentioned family-related reasons as the main motivation to stay in place. These findings contribute to a broader debate about the relationship between development and migration by challenging the linear relationship between poverty levels and migration aspirations that conventional migration theories implicitly or explicitly assume. Moreover, our findings on family reasons driving the aspiration to stay highlight the importance of non-economic factors in migration decision-making.
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Aspirations, immobility, development