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Research Series Issue 21 - Does relative deprivation induce migration? Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa
March 2018

This paper challenges the traditional view that portrays income maximization as the main driver of migration and tests whether relative deprivation and social inequality lead to migration in sub-Saharan Africa. Examining data from the Living Standards Measurements Study – Integrated Surveys in Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda, the paper finds that a household’s migration decision is based not only on its well-being status, but also on the position of the household relative to the wealth distribution in the local community. Results indicate that relative deprivation of wealth was positively associated with migration, implying a need to renew the discussion of relative deprivation and social inequality as a cause of migration in sub-Saharan Africa.


Kashi Kafle, Rui Benfica, Paul Winters