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This study proposes a link between inequality, social fractionalization and the emigration propensity of a population. By assuming that perceptions of relative deprivation may increase migration propensities, I can argue that more fractionalized societies are characterized by lower or higher emigration rates depending on whether social comparisons are made within or across social groups. For intra-group comparisons, the average level of relative deprivation is decreasing with the number of social groups, whereas the opposite is true for inter-group comparisons. Consequently, whether social fractionalization corresponds with higher or lower emigration rates depends on the relative importance of the two concepts, and thus, it is an empirical question. This study finds significantly higher emigration rates for ethnically fractionalized countries, whereas countries with a relatively strong linguistic fractionalization are unequivocally characterized by lower migration propensities.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



International migration, social fractionalization, inequality, relative deprivation, social comparisons