Should I stay or should I go? Confronting emigration intentions with actual emigration

Hendrik P. van Dalen, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)
Kène Henkens, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)

After decades of being a net immigration country the Netherlands has become a net emigration country. The question that puzzles many is why do so many people leave a high-income country? In a previous paper (Van Dalen and Henkens, PDR 2007) we examined what underlies the emigration intentions of native-born inhabitants of the Netherlands. In this paper we confront the emigration intentions measured in 2005 and subsequent emigration behaviour in the subsequent two years and try to answer the question to what extent intentions predict of future behavior and what factors influence actual emigration. We hypothesized that to understand emigration from high-income countries the private gains are not as important as the gains from a better public domain. The perception of the quality of the public domain, which involves institutions (social security, educational system, law and order) as well as the ‘public goods’ these institutions produce: social protection, safety, environmental quality, education, etc are a major push factors in modern day emigration from the Netherlands. The results of our analyses show first of all, that intentions are good indicators of future emigration: 25 percent of those who had stated an intention to emigrate has actually emigrated within two years time. Second, within the group of potential emigrants: those who have emigrated and those who have not emigrated (yet) do not differ much from each other. The forces that trigger the emigration intentions are also the same forces that make people actually move. Only potential emigrants who have not yet emigrated are in poorer health than those who did emigrate within two years. Third, the evaluation of the public domain is of key importance in the decision to emigrate. Emigrants are in search of a better quality of life.

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Presented in Session 89: European Emigration