Planning for Productive Migration

The University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with Mercy Corps Niger and the Immigration Policy Lab at Stanford University, will test the Planning for Productive Migration program, which goal is to facilitate safe, legal and productive migration to alleviate poverty in fragile and poor contexts. The FID grant will be used to conduct the impact evaluation of the Program. 

Why take action ?

In some particularly underprivileged areas, high levels of poverty and constraints make development projects implementation and improvement of livelihoods of the populations settled even more complicated. In Niger, 39% of the population live below a poverty line of $1.90 per day (World Bank, 2021)  and according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), less than half of the population between the ages of 15 and 64 have a job (ILO, 2014). Regionally, policymakers worry about the destabilizing effects of high and increasing youth unemployment. Despite the region promotes cross-border flows of people and goods, millions of people in Niger and across West Africa cannot realize productive migration opportunities that could benefit them and their families (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2019).

Regional migration within West Africa offers significant promise as a development strategy, but it has not been the focus of much research or programming. Increasing regional opportunities by supporting productive cross-border migration could be a solution, especially for people whom aspirations will lead to dangerous migration journey, with low level of information about the risks and what they can expect while arrived at destination.

Evidence-based implemented innovation

The University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with Mercy Corps Niger and the Immigration Policy Lab at Stanford University had designed together and started implementing the Planning for Productive Migration program. This program helps young men in Niger plan and execute successful cross-border moves, designed to provide comprehensive job search support and facilitate safe, productive cross-border migration as a livelihoods strategy within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The project aims at conducting a rigorous cost-effectiveness analysis of regional migration as an alternative to other rural livelihoods programs, and to assess whether unrealized potential returns to South-South migration exists and what could be the effects of supporting seasonal migration on livelihoods and wellbeing. FID’s funding will permit to test the Planning for Productive Migration program by conducting a pilot, and if the pilot is successful, by evaluating it with a randomized controlled trial (RCT).

The program includes information on necessary documentation to travel and work; information regarding potential destinations; training in soft-skills and mobile money applications; facilitating a migration planning session for the migrant and its family to ensure moves are planned collaboratively; and a conditional travel subsidy to remove financial barriers to migration.

The randomized control trial will be conducted with 2,600 participants from villages of the Tahoua region, who will be randomly assigned to three groups:

  • a group that will receive the Planning for Productive Migration program;
  • a group that will receive an unconditional cash transfer (estimated at 100 USD);
  • a control group.

The 18-month intervention and evaluation design will permit several comparisons of academic and policy interest: whether increased income deters or encourages migration, the returns to facilitated regional migration and whether the program delivers benefits that operate through channels other than a pure income effect.

Expected impact and key learnings

The project is based on the assumption that delivering the Planning for Productive Migration treatment will lead to legal, better informed and more frequent productive migration with more positive effects on households’ economic and psychosocial well-being.

The results of the pilot and the randomized control trial will inform future development approaches in contexts of instability and widespread poverty. If successful, the intervention will diversify livelihoods, expanding labor market opportunities for migrants and flows of remittances for their households in Niger.

The Economic Community of West African States provides a favorable environment for regional migration through the free movement it allows. Therefore, Productive Migration Planning could be extended to communities with similar characteristics and where there are barriers to migration.

Presentation of the team

The University of Pennsylvania, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an independent, nonsectarian, not-for-profit institution of higher learning founded in 1740. The University of Pennsylvania will receive the award and lead on financial management.

This project has three Principal Investigators: Guy Grossman (University of Pennsylvania), Jeremy Weinstein (Stanford University), and Darin Christensen (University of California Los Angeles). The three researchers will work with the two partners Mercy Corps for the program implementation and Sahel Consulting that will lead data collection.