The Less Extreme, the More You Leave: Radical Islam and Willingness to Migrate

Falco, Chiara and Rotondi, Valentina (2016) The Less Extreme, the More You Leave: Radical Islam and Willingness to Migrate. World Development, 88. pp. 122-133.

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This paper studies radical Islam as a determinant of individuals’ willingness to migrate. Surprisingly, despite its relevance in the political debate, this topic has not been investigated empirically in the literature. In order to fill this gap, we develop a model of the decision to migrate focusing in particular on the role played by cultural traits. More specifically, we focus on radical Islam as a deterrent for migration. Following Berman (2003), we define radical Islam as a set of ideologies, also referred to as Political Islam, holding that Islam should guide not only personal life, but also social and political life. In our model, more radical values imply a higher psychological cost of migrating. This cost derives from the fact that connections with socio-religious friends and neighbors are generally not maintained after migration, thus deterring individuals from migrating (Mayers, 2000). We then test empirically the predictions of the model, using individual-level data from the second (2010–11) and third (2012–14) waves of the Arab Barometer. Our results suggest that, ceteris paribus, more radical individuals are less willing to migrate. This finding is robust to alternative specifications of the model and to the use of Instrumental Variables and Propensity Score Matching aimed at addressing the potential endogeneity of radical Islam. The result is also qualitatively unchanged when using aggregate data on actual outflows of migrants.

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