Re‑thinking the drivers of regular and irregular migration: evidence from the MENA region

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Abstract

Why do individuals vary in their desire to emigrate? Why are some willing to emigrate irregularly? This article tests four theoretical approaches—socio-demographics; economic and political context; access to migrant networks; and psychological factors—across the Middle East and North Africa region. Data from the Arab Barometer is used to show that the most prevalent factors are youth, university education, being male, and stress levels as well as negative economic and political perceptions, being unmarried, trust in social media, remittances, and low religiosity. Notably, economic factors such as unemployment and income are shown to rarely have an effect. The determinants of being willing to emigrate without papers are fewer and distinct: gender and lower income especially as well as lower education and negative economic and political perceptions. Several contributions to our understanding of emigration are made: a two-step model of irregular emigration based on findings across 12 countries, new evidence of the complex and, within-country, muted role of economic factors, the centrality of psychology, and how, tentatively, it appears that both extreme wealth and war interact with the most fundamental socio-demographic drivers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number21
JournalComparative Migration Studies
Volume10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2022

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