Cognitive Abilities, Gender, and Migration Aspirations

Alicia Adsera , Princeton University
Till Nikolka, German Youth Institute
Panu Poutvaara, University of Munich, ifo Institute

Female migration had been historically understudied and work focused on women as “secondary movers” rather than active agents. We study whether there are differences of migration aspirations and intentions by gender. In a new multi-country survey among students in Czechia, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, and Spain. First, we analyze how cognitive abilities (measured by standard tests) relate to aspirations to permanently or temporarily move to another. Second, we study whether migration aspirations vary by gender 1) by intended work effort; 2) perception of relative position of women in origin versus destination; 3) characteristics of potential destinations. Our survey includes questions that aim to capture the intensity of migration intentions and the intended length. Further, individuals are asked whether they think that men (women) will do better (or worse) in the country of destination compared to the country of origin. We will exploit this variation across gender. Preliminary results show higher cognitive scores predict migration aspirations and intentions among women, also when controlling for country of residence, study field, degree, age, risk attitudes, patience, and parental education. For men, there is no systematic link between cognitive ability scores and migration aspirations and intentions. Ability scores of those wishing to emigrate dominate the scores of those who do not wish to emigrate among female and male STEM and social science students, and among female economics and business students. Further, willingness to take risks is more strongly associated with women’s migration aspirations and intentions. Patience has no statistically significant effect for either gender.

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 Presented in Session 79. Trends and patterns in international migration