Project

Emigration, a Blessing or a Curse: Evidence from Francophone Africa

Rema Hanna, Nathan Nunn, Ariane Salem, and Awa Ambra Seck

This project has been retired

Small Research Grant

The impacts of migration have long been of interest to policymakers and economists. Many research studies focus on the effects of immigrants on a country, but it has been notoriously difficult to study the origin communities of migrants. This study focuses on a series of conscription laws enacted in French colonies in North and West Africa that required men over 20 years of age to serve a three-year term in the French Colonial Army. The setting provides a unique case for studying emigration due to the quasi-random nature of the location of army regiments. The project considers whether or not soldiers who were assigned to regiments in France, as opposed to their home country or other developing countries, were more likely to migrate to France after the colonies gained independence, and then considers the long-term economic impacts on their home country and municipality.

The research team uses soldiers’ deployment histories in combination with modern measures of outmigration at the municipality level to create the dataset used for analysis. Preliminary results in Morocco show a positive, statistically significant relationship between deployment to France and outmigration to France. The team determines these results by comparing municipalities with a high number of soldiers deployed to France to those with lower numbers, and then comparing the number of people who died in France later in life (between 1990 and 2020), which indicates that they chose to move to France after colonial independence. Finally, the researchers consider indicators of economic development within the municipalities to determine the impacts of outmigration on development.

International migration continues to increase, with more and more data being collected on entries into countries. However, there is a lack of information on outmigration, and this research begins to fill that gap. The compiled dataset will broaden the available historical data in this region of Africa, and resulting information about the impacts of emigration can give policymakers new insights, especially on low-income sending countries. As international migration policies are developed, it is important that the migrant, sending country, and host country are all considered. This research brings novel insights to the table about how these policies can be created in a way that considers the often understudied impacts on the sending country.

Research Team

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