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A satisfactory theoretical and methodological account of international migration should consider the motivations, goals, values, and aspirations of individuals who decide to resettle in another country (Gans, 1999; Massey, 1999). Is there a set of motives, values, and traits that characterize the personalities of people who emigrate? In this article, we argue that desire to emigrate is associated with a specific set of personality characteristics that differentiates people who want to emigrate from people who want to stay in their country of origin. We propose a model of the personality factors that predict desire to emigrate. Further, we discuss our previous findings that, indeed, across six cultures, desire to emigrate, compared to desire to stay, was associated with significantly higher achievement, power motivation, and work centrality and lower family centrality.
Research on international migration has consistently shown that economic factors play an important role in the process: People tend to emigrate from less to more economically advanced countries (e.g., Rumbaut, 1994). There is a consensus among immigration researchers that "migration occurs between demand-pull factors that draw migrants into industrial countries, supply-push factors that push them out of their own countries, and networks of friends and relatives already in industrial societies who serve as anchor communities for newcomers" (Martin, 1993, p. 4).
Yet not all people in economically disadvantaged countries want to leave for countries with better economic conditions. In fact, research indicates that those who want to emigrate are not necessarily among the poorest in their country of origin. For example, in a study of potential emigration from Bulgaria, a formerly socialist East European country, those who wanted to emigrate had significantly higher income and were more often owners of an apartment or a house than those who wanted to stay (Domozetov & Yossifov, 1991). Similarly, Jamaican lower class students were found less likely to want to leave their country of origin than middle and upper class students (Tidrick, 1971). In a cross-cultural study of desires to emigrate, Frieze and colleagues (2000) found no clear relationship between emigration desires and the overall economic conditions within a particular country. Some countries, like Russia and Croatia, for example, that were not doing economically well had in fact lower rates of emigration desires than other countries, like the Czech Republic and Slovenia, that were economically doing much better.
In other words, there is some evidence that economic and other environmental factors cannot fully account for the desire to emigrate. Take, for example, emigration and immigration policies (see Dovidio & Esses, this issue). Even under the most restrictive emigration policies, some individuals take high risks and leave, whereas others stay even under "open door" emigration policies and unfavorable economic conditions (Boneva, 1991). Another major factor discussed in international migration research is the network of relatives and friends who have previously emigrated in the receiving country. Such ties, connecting potential migrants to those who have already emigrated, are transformed into a resource that makes resettlement in the new region more possible (Massey, 1999). A social network in the country of destination triggers migratory behavior, however, only for someone who already wants to emigrate (see, e.g., Light, Bhachu, & Karageorgis, 1993).
We argue here that unfavorable economies in country of origin, emigration and immigration policies, network support in the receiving country, and other environmental factors create the conditions for wanting to leave, but desires to do so are based in the personality of those who make the choice. Thus, under the same environmental conditions, some individuals choose to leave whereas others choose to stay. In order to better understand immigrants, it is necessary to study who chooses to leave and why. Sociologists and demographers have looked at general groups of emigrants and the conditions that make people want to leave, whereas the psychological predictors of choice to leave have been much less studied (Rogler, 1994).
We propose here a model of personality characteristics that contribute to desires to emigrate or stay. We argue that a certain personality syndrome leads to desires to leave one's country of origin. Based on our own research, as well as other research findings, we show that those who want to resettle in another country tend to be more work-oriented and to have higher achievement and power motivation, but lower affiliation motivation and family centrality, than those who do not want to leave their country of origin. This personality pattern, together with other psychological factors, interacts with environmental factors and opportunities to produce actual migratory behavior (see Figure 1).This model further suggests that individuals who actually move to another country may do so for a variety of reasons, and thus we would not expect that all immigrants have similar personalities. We do argue, however, that a certain pattern of personality characteristics will be predictive of higher levels of desire to emigrate.
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Origins of the Concept of the Migrant Personality
The idea that certain people are predisposed to migratory behavior emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s. Jennings (1970), for example, introduced the term "mobicentric man" to describe the behavior of individuals who value motion and action very highly and who are constantly "on the move." Later, Morrison and Wheeler (1976) used the term "pioneering personality" to describe individuals who appear to like to relocate geographically. Morrison and Wheeler claimed that, in the decision to emigrate, the need for novelty per se may play as decisive a role as the perceived economic opportunity in the destination country. These two concepts of a migrant personality, however, were not empirically tested.
More recent research indirectly supports empirically the idea that some individuals are "predisposed" to migrate. For example, individuals who have once migrated have been found to be more willing to migrate again, as compared to those who have never migrated (e.g., Kupiszewski, 1996; Neuman & Tienda, 1994; Sakkeus, 1994). This, again, would suggest that emigrants are not just responding to a particular set of economic conditions and that there is something specific about the personality of those who desire to move.
In the 1960s and 1970s, a few studies emphasized the role that personality dispositions, in addition to situational factors, play in choice to relocate geographically. Touraine and Ragazzi (1961), for example, found that migration is a result not only of circumstances favoring migration, but also of a …