Social Networks and the Intention to Migrate

CID Research Fellow & Graduate Student Working Paper No. 90

Miriam Manchin and Sultan Orazbayev
March 2018


Using a large individual-level survey spanning several years and more than 150 countries, we examine the importance of social networks in influencing individuals' intention to migrate internationally and locally. We distinguish close social networks (composed of friends and family) abroad and at the current location, and broad social networks (composed of same-country residents with intention to migrate, either internationally or locally). We find that social networks abroad are the most important driving forces of international migration intentions, with close and broad networks jointly explaining about 37% of variation in the probability intentions. Social networks are found to be more important factors driving migration intentions than work-related aspects or wealth (wealth accounts for less than 3% of the variation). In addition, we found that having stronger close social networks at home has the opposite effect by reducing the likelihood of migration intentions, both internationally and locally.

Keywords: intention to migrate; social networks; international migration; local migration; remittances.

JEL Codes: F22, F24, R23, O15.