Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Research on migration – still so much to learn

Eva Maria Egger

I have been working on my PhD in Economics for the past year, alongside working as a Quantitative Research Assistant for the DfiD-funded Research Program Consortium ‘Migrating out of Poverty’ (RPC) which supports my studies. I decided to come to the University of Sussex because of its strong focus on research related to development. During my undergraduate degree in Germany I studied development issues, aid and politics. I later spent a short period living and working in Brazil, which is a country with high levels of migration and high levels of socio-economic inequality. Living in a city of more than 7 million inhabitants, I became fascinated by the fact that cities attract so many people, offer the potential of better prospects, but are challenged by fast population growth. I gained quantitative research skills during my MSc in Economics at Sussex, which laid the foundation that my PhD is going to build on. I am currently working on my first PhD-paper where I am asking: What do we know about urban labour markets in emerging and developing economies? What do migrants do in urban destinations? Does moving to the city yield better opportunities? What is the role of the informal sector? There is a lot of speculation and theory out there, and I aim to shed light on these questions with empirical evidence of the dynamics of urban labour markets and the role of workers’ mobility. Inspired by my time there, I am focusing on Brazil, which is a large country with many big cities and lots of people who migrate internally for work. Plus, there is a large informative dataset available to explore my question – an important determinant for quantitative research.

The Migrating out of Poverty RPC aims to combine quantitative and qualitative research to explore the nexus between migration and poverty in Africa and Asia. To contribute to the quantitative research, the core partners in all 5 regions (east, west and southern Africa and south and southeast Asia) are conducting a household survey covering migrant and non-migrant households. The most unique part of the survey is, in my opinion, that we will collect a lot of information on the subjective perception of wellbeing and of changes in the welfare of the households. My responsibility is to use the data from these surveys to calculate descriptive statistics, which can draw a picture of the general migration patterns in each country. Working with Julie Litchfield from the Economics Department at Sussex I also develop econometric strategies to answer more specific research questions and I then run these models in the software.

In the past few months I have worked on the first dataset from our partners in Ghana, the Centre for Migration Studies (CMS) based in Accra. Our aim is now to explore the connection between migration and subjective wellbeing at the household level. These results can then be used as the starting point for further, more detailed qualitative exploration of the migration-poverty nexus.

The experience of working with a ‘fresh’ dataset no one else has used before is really exciting for me. It is a great opportunity to learn about migration and the experience of migrants as well as their households from this data and from the data, which will be collected in the other partner countries. I hope, that we can gain some more knowledge about the migration and poverty nexus from this.

While I focus on the experience at destination of migrants in my PhD, my research for the RPC has gathered rich information on the origin households of migrants. By combining these two strands of research I hope to understand better why migration is such a commonly observed household strategy to improve wellbeing.


Eva Maria Egger is a doctoral candidate in Economics at the University of Sussex, funded by the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium.

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