Over the past few decades, thousands of people have responded to survey questions about their thoughts and feelings about possibly migrating. The resulting data can be valuable in migration research but are as good as the questions that are asked in survey. A new paper looks in depth at question formulations and creates an inventory of data.

The paper is written by Jørgen Carling and Mathilde Bålsrud Mjelva as part of the QuantMig project, funded by the European Commission. It makes three targeted contributions to the study of migration aspirations. First, the paper presents a systematic survey compilation of 212 surveys that have collected data on migration aspirations. This is the first of its kind, providing an inventory of existing data to encourage further use and inform future research. The survey compilation identifies data that is reportedly available, online or upon request.

Second, it presents a comprehensive question bank of survey items that have been used to measure various dimensions of migration aspirations. The collection includes, first and foremost, 276 questions that relate directly to the matter of migrating or not, such as ‘Do you have any wish to move within the next year?’, ‘Are you planning to emigrate?’, and ‘Do you expect to live in your community in five years?’.

Third, the question bank is used to elaborate on previous work (Carling & Schewel, 2018; Carling 2019) on the conceptual analysis of survey question on migration aspirations. The variation between the 276 survey items is broken down into a small number of components which help clarify what, exactly, is being asked about. These distinctions help set priorities for survey instruments, quality assure translations, and improve the quality of data analysis.

Carling, Jørgen; & Mathilde Bålsrud Mjelva (2021) Survey instruments and survey data on migration aspirations, QuantMig project deliverable, 2.1. Southampton: University of Southampton.