Welfare and Migration within Europe: Investigating the Role of Welfare in Migration Decision-Making Using an Experimental Design

Petra de Jong, NIDI
Helga de Valk, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI-KNAW)

The role of welfare for migration decisions has often been debated in both academia and society. Although it is often assumed that generous welfare state arrangements in a country may attract immigrants, existing evidence is mixed. In contrast with this ‘welfare magnet hypothesis’, previous studies investigating the link between welfare generosity and intra-European migration found limited empirical support for an attracting effect of welfare. Using macro-level data, most of these studies implicitly assumed that immigrants have perfect information on welfare generosity across the different countries they may choose from prior to migration. As a result of the (macro-level) designs, these studies were unable to disentangle whether migrants in fact did not value the generosity of welfare in the destination country, or that they did not have enough information on welfare to let it guide their migration decisions. In this paper, we therefore aimed to improve our understanding of this issue using an experimental design. We collected data on migration intentions upon graduation among a sample of Master students studying at different universities and different subjects in the Netherlands. In an experimental setting, we confronted the students with a set of vignettes that included the characteristics of a potential destination country as well as that of the country of residence. By providing the respondents with information on welfare arrangements in the origin country and potential destination countries, we were able to test whether variations in welfare were taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to migrate and to choose for a certain destination. In addition, we investigated whether the importance of welfare for the migration decision varied with other characteristics of the country, as well as personal characteristics.

Presented in Session 67: Immigrant Labor Market Outcomes