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Influences of Material Aspirations on Migration

Abstract

In this article, we investigate the influences of material aspirations on migration in Nepal, positing that material aspirations may have important influences on decisions to migrate and where to locate. We discuss a theoretical model explaining how these aspirations might be key influences in the migration decision. Using detailed continuous migration histories from the 2008–2012 Chitwan Valley Family Study, we estimate logistic and alternative-specific conditional logit models to examine how material aspirations in Nepal influence migration rates and destinations. Our empirical analyses provide strong evidence that material aspirations have large effects on overall rates of migration and affect destination-specific migration rates, particularly for relatively wealthy Western and Asian destinations. We also show an interaction effect between material aspirations and destination-specific expected earnings in influencing people’s migration choices. It is the people with high aspirations who migrate to destinations with high earning potentials.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The Lesthaeghe and Vanderhoeft (2001) framework included a third dimension: willingness. They indicated that this dimension “refers to considerations of legitimacy and normative (e.g., ethical, religious) acceptability of the new pattern of action” (pp. 240–241). This willingness dimension is important to consider when the new behavior is considered by some to be immoral, as it often is in the case of birth control, which was the main focus of Lesthaeghe and Vanderhoeft. We do not further discuss the willingness dimension here because morality is not a factor in migration decisions in Nepal or many other places around the world.

  2. 2.

    In conditional logit, individual-level variables can be included as interactions with destinations so that they can be nested with a conventional multinomial model. In other words, a conventional multinomial model can be rewritten as a conditional logit model but not vice versa.

  3. 3.

    As noted in Table 2, our sample is approximately three-fifths female, which is likely related to the substantially higher rate of out-migration for males.

  4. 4.

    Results for control variables in Table 4, not shown, are indistinguishable from those in Table 3.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Christine Bachrach, Katharine Donato, Douglas Massey, and Michael White for their helpful advice and comments on an earlier version of this article. Also appreciated is the input from anonymous reviewers. We also appreciate the research support provided by a grant (R01 HD078397) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Our research was also supported by NICHD research grants (R24 HD041028 and P2CHD041028) to the Population Studies Center of the University of Michigan and by an NICHD research infrastructure grant (R24 HD042828) to the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology at the University of Washington. The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Thornton, A., Williams, N.E., Bhandari, P. et al. Influences of Material Aspirations on Migration. Demography 56, 75–102 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-018-0751-y

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Keywords

  • Migration
  • Ideational influences
  • Material aspirations