Voluntary Immobility: A Global Analysis of Staying Preferences

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UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies
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UNU-CRIS Working Papers
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In the last decade, there has been growing interest from both policy and academic communities in understanding why people migrate. The focus, however, remains biased towards understanding mobility, while the structural and personal forces that restrict or resist the drivers of migration, leading to different immobility outcomes, are much less understood. This paper offers the first global analysis of staying preferences, enhancing knowledge about the factors associated with voluntary immobility, defined here as the aspiration to stay in one’s country of residence. We make use of the unique Gallup World Polls which provide information on aspirations to stay (as opposed to migrating abroad) as well as on individual characteristics and opinions for 130 countries worldwide between 2010-2016. Staying aspirations are widespread and far more common than migration aspirations, and we uncover important ‘retain factors’ often overlooked in research on migration drivers – related to social ties, local amenities, trust in community institutions, and life satisfaction. Overall, those who aspire to stay tend to be more content, socially supported and live in communities with stronger institutions, and better local amenities. We further explore differences in the relative importance of retain factors for countries at different levels of urbanization, and for different population groups, based on gender, education, rural/urban location, migration history, religiosity, and perceived thriving. Our findings contribute to a more holistic understanding of migration decision-making, illuminating the personal, social, economic, and institutional retain factors countering those that push and pull.

Immobility, Staying Preferences, Migration Aspirations, Retain Factors