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Understanding willingness to migrate illegally: Evidence from a lab in the field experiment

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  • Tijan L. Bah
  • Cátia Batista

Abstract

Illegal migration to Europe through the sea, though risky, remains one of the most popular migration options for many Sub-Saharan Africans. This study aims at improving our understanding of the determinants of the willingness to migrate illegally from West Africa to Europe. We implemented an incentivized lab-in-the field experiment in rural Gambia, the country with the highest rate of illegal migration to Europe in the region. Sampled male youths aged 15 to 25 were given hypothetical scenarios regarding the probability of dying en route to Europe, and of obtaining asylum or legal residence status after successful arrival. According to our data, potential migrants overestimate both the risk of dying en route to Europe, and the probability of obtaining legal residency status. The experimental results suggest that the willingness to migrate illegally is affected by information on the chances of dying en route and of obtaining a legal residence permit. Our estimates show that providing potential migrants with official numbers on the probability of obtaining a legal residence permit decreases their likelihood of migration by 2.88 percentage points (pp), while information on the risk of migrating increases their likelihood of migration by 2.29pp – although the official risk information provided may be regarded as a lower bound to actual mortality. Follow up data collected one year after the experiment show that the migration decisions reported in the lab experiment correlate well with actual migration decisions and intentions. Overall, our study indicates that the migration decisions of potential migrants are likely to actively respond to relevant information.

Suggested Citation

  • Tijan L. Bah & Cátia Batista, 2018. "Understanding willingness to migrate illegally: Evidence from a lab in the field experiment," NOVAFRICA Working Paper Series wp1803, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia, NOVAFRICA.
  • Handle: RePEc:unl:novafr:wp1803
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    7. Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes & Thitima Puttitanun & Ana Martinez-Donate, 2013. "How Do Tougher Immigration Measures Affect Unauthorized Immigrants?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(3), pages 1067-1091, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Clemens, Michael A. & Mendola, Mariapia, 2020. "Migration from Developing Countries: Selection, Income Elasticity, and Simpson's Paradox," IZA Discussion Papers 13612, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Sandrine Mesplé-Somps & Björn Nilsson, 2021. "Role models and migration intentions," Working Papers hal-03105639, HAL.
    3. Tanja Stitteneder & Carla Rhode, 2019. "ifo Migrationsmonitor: Informationskampagnen zur Förderung der regulären Migration," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 72(16), pages 65-69, August.
    4. Sandrine Mesplé-Somps and & Björn Nilsson, 2020. "Role models and migration intentions," Working Paper 519bfbde-8d2e-4e86-bd62-0, Agence française de développement.
    5. Jules Gazeaud & Eric Mvukiyehe & Olivier Sterck, 2019. "Cash Transfers and Migration: Theory and Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial," CSAE Working Paper Series 2019-16, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    6. Clemens, Michael A., 2020. "The Emigration Life Cycle: How Development Shapes Emigration from Poor Countries," IZA Discussion Papers 13614, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    International migration; Information; Expectations; Illegal migration; Willingness to migrate; Lab-in-the-Field Experiment; The Gambia;
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