What We’re Reading – Justin Schon on Motivations vs Opportunities

As a geographer, I certainly have my problems with “push-pull” models of migration. Simply put, people move for many reasons; these motivations are difficult to describe, capture, or categorize, even for the individuals who are migrating. Real trouble starts when overly simplistic models are used to inform state or UN policy on migration. Physical violence and the economics of violence are more difficult to tease apart than most formal definitions of “the refugee” tend to assume.

In his article for the Political Violence at a Glance blog, Justin Schon proposes a more nuanced framework for understanding how movement and violence intersect, based on years of first-hand research with Syrians across the Middle East.

Schon suggests push-pull models might describe motivations to travel, but they fail to model the restricting element that opportunity plays on migration pathways.

Violence in residential areas, mediated through social and psychological mechanisms, influences motivation. The ability to secure protection from violence along migration routes influences opportunity. Both are necessary to influence migration behavior…. People below a certain income level may wish to migrate but lack the resources to do so. Rising to moderate income levels may not remove motivations to migrate, but it can provide the resources to migrate. Finally, rich individuals may not be motivated to migrate and therefore choose not to migrate, despite having plenty of resources.

Sounds like a recipe for an engaging sim! Read the whole article via the link to the blog below, plus a link to a proof of his forthcoming article.

Push-pull migration models have long dominated migration research. Here’s why that’s only half the story.

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