Theses Doctoral

Leaving and Returning Home: Insights on Migration Attitudes and Policies

Jaiteh, Salif

This dissertation is about policies and attitudes toward emigration and return migration. It explores these topics in two parts. First, it asks what policies states employ to regulate emigration and what might explain the adoption of these policies and what form they take. It presents a variety of emigration-encouraging and -discouraging policies along with a rich set of examples of countries that have adopted them across the world.

Using the UN World Population Policies database, it then shows how policies vary by region, with emigration-encouraging policies being more common in Asia and emigration-discouraging policies more present in Latin America. Moreover, it finds that having larger populations, receiving more remittances, being less democratic and having less state capacity are attributes of states that correlate positively with the adoption of emigration policies. Likewise, being more populous, receiving more remittances and having a lower share of the population that intends to migrate are characteristics of states that positively correlate with the adoption of policies that are more emigration-encouraging.

The second part asks how social identity and economic concerns affect people’s attitudes toward emigration and return migration policies, respectively. By analyzing multiple survey experiments that were embedded in an original large-scale phone survey in The Gambia, it finds some support for the centrality of economic as well as ethnic concerns in the formation of attitudes toward emigration and return migration. These findings are in line with the main arguments developed in the dissertation. On the one hand, it argues that individuals hold other-regarding preferences, are concerned with the political demography of their country and receiving remittances when it comes to ethnicity. Which of these mechanisms is the strongest depends on the context of migration. On the other hand, people are concerned with the labor market effects of emigration in their country and therefore support policies encouraging the emigration of people with the same occupation as themselves and oppose policies encouraging their return. Regarding interaction effects, it finds some suggestive evidence that low-skilled people are more concerned with the economic dimension of migration policy than high-skilled people are.

This dissertation makes essential contributions to the existing literature and policy debates as it advances our understanding of policies and attitudes toward less frequently studied areas of migration, including emigration, return migration and migration in the Global South.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Humphreys, Macartan N.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 19, 2022