Realization of migration intentions – lessons from a panel study

Irén Gödri, Hungarian Demographic Research Institute
Gábor Attila Feleky, Corvinus University of Budapest

The paper examines the relationship between migration intentions and subsequent migration behaviour of ethnic Hungarians living in Transylvania (Romania), and provides insight into the self-selection mechanism of emigration. The analysis is based on data from the panel study Turning points of our lives – Transylvania conducted in 2006 and 2009. As factors determining the realization of migration – besides variables of living conditions, unemployment experience, job satisfaction, housing condition, household member living abroad and subjective well-being – a special emphasis is laid on previous migration intentions, migration-related expectations, and perceived external norms. According to the results, 17% of the migration plans were followed by migration during the three-year period between the two waves of the survey. Migration occurred among non-planners as well, albeit only to a relatively small extent (5%). Nevertheless migration intention proved to be a statistically significant predictor of migration: those who had a migration plan in 2006 were almost three and a half times more likely to move till 2009 than non-planners. At the same time, even after controlling for previous intention, the effects of job dissatisfaction and anomie remain significant. While migration-related positive expectations and perceived external norms increased the chances of migration, these effects disappeared after involving previous migration intention as an explanatory variable. These findings confirm that migration-related attitudes and subjective norms influence migration behaviour indirectly, via migration intentions – as suggested by Ajzen's theory of planned behaviour. Although on individual level previous migration intention is the primary determinant of migration, it is also clear that based on intentions alone, we would significantly overestimate the volume of actual migration, and estimations regarding the composition of migrants are likely to be biased as well. In order to use migration intentions as more appropriate indicators for predicting future migration, it is important to ‘refine’ their measurement.

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 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session 2