The relevance of regional contexts for migration decisions in the life course

Johannes Huinink, University of Bremen
Stefanie A. Kley, University of Bremen

In migration theory it is well acknowledged that perceiving better opportunities elsewhere play a decisive role in migration decision-making. Particular in Europe, where economical conditions may differ substantially between areas, this is highly relevant. However, there are only few studies which explicitly bring regional-level aspects together with micro-level explanations of migration. The aim of this paper is to close this gap by using a life-course framework to explain the relevance of perceived opportunities for migration-decision making. We propose an analytical framework in which the relevance of perceived opportunities changes systematically according to the 'instrumental goals' for well-being people strive for in a particular phase of the life-course. Considering job-related events on the one hand and family-related on the other, the relevance of perceived opportunities is unveiled, while socio-demographic variables and social ties are also considered. We distinguish perceived opportunities in three main areas of life, (1) education and work, (2) partnership and family, and (3) self realization by pursuing own interests. Migration decision-making is subdivided in the analytical phases of considering and planning to move. The data come from a survey in two German cities (Magdeburg and Freiburg), and were gathered via a two-wave panel design in 2006 and 2007. The sample consists of three different groups of respondents: persons who did not consider leaving the city, persons who did consider or plan leaving the city, and persons who did recently move to the city. The results show that perceived opportunities are especially important for considering migration and therefore trigger the migration-process. The relevance of perceived opportunities in certain areas of life differs systematically with the phase in the life course, as expected. A comparison of in-movers to either of the two cities show that perceived opportunities are also playing a decisive role for selecting the destination of a move.

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Presented in Session 7: Regional and Urban Issues