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Out of Africa: what drives the pressure to emigrate?

Abstract

Who intends to leave Africa and what drives people to emigrate? For the cases of Ghana, Senegal, Morocco and Egypt, we examined peoples' stated intentions to emigrate. The large majority wants to move “out of Africa”, and the typical potential migrant was found to be young, male, displaying relatively modern values and optimistic about the net benefits of emigration. Signs of positive self-selection were clearly evident in Ghana and Egypt, particularly among women. However, negative self-selection was apparent among Moroccan men. The network effects of potential migrants were found to be fairly important in Ghana and Egypt, but in Senegal and Morocco, such ties play no role in triggering emigration intentions.

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Notes

  1. During the process of writing this paper, we discovered that we were not the only ones who had used the film title “Out of Africa” as the title of a paper. Kuyvenhoven (1997) and Hatton and Williamson (2003a,b) used this title before we did, and the credit for using this title should go to them. We have, however, retained the title because it is such an apt description of the phenomenon of African emigration: the majority of emigrants long to move “out of Africa”.

  2. Pioneered by Sjaastad (1962) and later extended by economists such as Bhagwati (1975), Mincer (1978), Simon (1989), Borjas (1994), Stark (1991) and Chiswick (1999).

  3. We have used the male notation for a typical migrant in this section not just for the sake of convenience but primarily because most of the empirical migration literature indicates that men are often the ones who initiate the decision to emigrate.

  4. This relates to work by Tunali (2000) who showed that in Turkey, migration was viewed as a “lottery”: for a substantial proportion of migrants, the estimated gain of moving was negative, and only a minority of movers achieved very high returns.

  5. O'Connell's theory cannot be tested either because we asked respondents directly about their expectations and not their assessment of the uncertainty associated with their expectations.

  6. For an extensive description of the surveys, see Schoorl et al. (2000).

  7. In Morocco, the survey was carried out in the regions of Nador in north-eastern Morocco and in the less developed southern region of Tiznit, both of which are characterised by a long migration history, and in the more recent migration areas of Larache (northwest Atlantic coast), Settat (near Casablanca) and in the less developed region of Khenifra in the dry and mountainous south. In Ghana, the regions studied included the developed regions of Greater Accra and Ashanti, the latter characterised by more recent migration patterns; and the less developed regions of Eastern and Brong Ahafo. In Senegal, the urban and relatively developed region of Dakar/Pikine was chosen, as was the semi-rural and less developed region of Diourbel/Tourba, both characterised by relatively recent migration patterns. The two regions together account for roughly one third of the country's population. And finally, in Egypt the following large regions were selected: Cairo and Alexandria (developed, established migration), urban upper and lower Egypt (developed, with recent migration patterns), and rural upper and lower Egypt, both less developed regions, the former with more established migration flows than the latter. For more details see Schoorl et al. (2000).

  8. To obtain robust variance estimates, we also controlled for possible interaction effects in the formation of intentions within households in the sample. The estimation method therefore relaxes the assumption of the independence of observations and requires only that observations are independent across clusters: in our case, households (White, 1980). All standard errors in this paper were corrected for this clustering effect.

  9. We would like to thank an anonymous referee for pointing this problem out to us. However, we also ran separate regressions with the expectations questions, used in a direct manner, and these results differed only marginally from the two-step procedure. We have presented the results from the latter procedure because these give a slightly better fit.

  10. For a more in-depth study of the case of Morocco, see Van der Erf and Heering (2002).

  11. Interested readers can obtain first-stage regression results upon request from the authors.

  12. We also checked for correlation between the intention to emigrate and the financial expectations associated with emigration, and this correlation turned out to be quite low.

  13. When re-estimating the models, we had to change a number of dummy variables to avoid the problems associated with having samples that are too small.

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Acknowledgements

Comments by Kène Henkens, Beth Fussell and two anonymous referees are gratefully acknowledged. Earlier drafts of the paper were presented at the 2003 annual meeting of the European Association for Population Studies in Warsaw and the 2004 annual meeting of the Population Association of America in Boston. The financial support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Hendrik P. van Dalen.

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Responsible editor: Klaus F. Zimmermann

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van Dalen, H.P., Groenewold, G. & Schoorl, J.J. Out of Africa: what drives the pressure to emigrate?. J Popul Econ 18, 741–778 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-005-0003-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-005-0003-5

Keywords

  • Migration
  • Intentions
  • Selection
  • Networks

JEL Classification

  • F22
  • O52
  • P2