Volume 35 - Article 13 | Pages 339–380  

What drives Senegalese migration to Europe? The role of economic restructuring, labor demand, and the multiplier effect of networks

By Pau Baizan, Amparo González-Ferrer


Background: International migration from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe is poorly understood. Furthermore, existing studies pay insufficient attention to the links between the micro-level factors and political, social, and economic processes in both origin and destination areas. Here we integrate insights from institutional approaches in migration and development research with perspectives that highlight the role of labor market and social capital.

Objective: We analyze the contextual and individual-level determinants of migration from Senegal to France, Italy, and Spain since the mid-1970s. We examine the following hypotheses: (1) In Senegal, the deterioration of living conditions and heightened economic insecurity have created the conditions for increasing out-migration propensities. (2) In Europe, labor market restructuring has increased job opportunities in particular places and job niches. (3) In facilitating access of Senegalese migrants to jobs in Europe, social networks have linked these two processes. (4) The conjunction of periods of strong labor demand and the availability of personal networks in Europe creates a boosting effect on the migration probabilities of the Senegalese to Europe.

Methods: We use event history models to analyze life course data from the Migrations between Africa and Europe survey (2008).

Results: Our empirical results concerning both individual socioeconomic indicators and contextual indicators provide consistent support for the four hypotheses proposed.

Conclusions: The initiation and expansion of migration between Senegal and Europe stem from the simultaneous presence of several key factors at origin and destination, including processes of economic restructuring and the mutually reinforcing process of social capital formation and changing labor market conditions. These factors are historically contingent, but they may have a wider relevance in the explanation of migration from developing countries to developed countries.

Author's Affiliation

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