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Does rural development aid reduce international migration?

In recent years, interest has emerged in policy circles and among academics about the use of foreign aid to reduce international migration. Scholars have investigated this aid-migration nexus, but results have been mixed and questions remain. This paper contributes to the literature by comparing the effects of rural and urban development aid on international migration. Specifically, we hypothesize that while increases in rural development aid to developing countries reduce emigration from those countries, greater urban aid produces the opposite effect – higher rates of emigration. These hypotheses are informed by two theoretical mechanisms.

  • The first mechanism focuses on the divergent preferences of rural and urban populations regarding emigration. Aid targeting these respective populations provides each with resources to follow through on their migratory ambitions, or lack thereof.
  • The second mechanism focuses on contrasting impacts of rural and urban aid on agricultural sector development and the effects of this sort of development on emigration.

We analyze cross-national time series data to test our hypotheses regarding rural and urban development aid, finding that countries that receive larger amounts of rural development aid have lower emigration rates. Then we turn to survey data from the Arab Barometer to assess whether the attitudes of survey respondents match our theorized mechanisms.

Results from survey data suggest that investments in agricultural sector capacity building will lead to reductions in emigration from developing countries; however, these findings do not indicate that rural and urban populations differ in terms of their desire to emigrate.

  • Rural development aid deters emigration from aid-recipient countries.
  • Rural aid appears to affect emigration through its impacts on rural labor markets.
  • Urban development aid does not appear to affect emigration from aid-recipient countries.
  • World Development Volume 110, October 2018, Pages 268-282 ,Jonas Gamso, Farhod Yuldashev
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