Dignity and the Decision to Migrate, Where to Move, and When to Return by Yang-Yang Zhou

“Worldwide, large-scale conflicts and other situations of economic and environmental insecurity have led to unprecedented numbers of people migrating across international borders. Yet, many people experiencing the same crises choose to stay within their country of origin. This project seeks to understand how individuals in these insecure situations make decisions whether to migrate, where to settle if they decide to leave, and when to return home. While others have highlighted economic and safety considerations, this project focuses on internal values, such as dignity concerns and nationalism, that may influence this decision-making process. We examine how these values affect migration decisions within several different forced displacement crises, including the Syrian Civil War, the economic collapse of Venezuela, and the gang and domestic violence fueled migration out of Central America. Spanning multiple disciplines and across the sub-fields of political science, this research furthers understanding of how political dynamics shape individuals’ values and consequently, their migration decisions. We also study these issues in a range of different country contexts to help discern which decision-making considerations are universal and which are context specific. Large migration events can challenge the bureaucracies of even wealthy democracies like Canada, the U.S., and those in the E.U. For governments to effectively address these events, they need a better understanding of why forced and potential migrants make the decisions that they do.

This project is funded by the NSF.”

Research Partners
Yang-Yang Zhou, UBC
Margaret Peters, UCLA