Social Position and Migrant Social Capital in International Migration From Africa to Europe

Sorana Toma, CREST and Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l’Administration Economique (ENSAE)
Mao-Mei Liu , University of California, Berkeley

Social capital has been conceptualized as a mechanism through which socioeconomic inequalities are reinforced, and a growing body of labor market, education and health studies support this. In contrast, some migration scholars believe that migrant social capital can potentially broaden access to migration, but few empirical studies exist. We build on prior work by Nan Lin and Sandra Smith to examine how an individual’s social position relates to their access, mobilization, and returns to social capital. We use retrospective data from the Migration between Africa and Europe (MAFE) project and study migration to Europe from DR Congo, Ghana and Senegal. Our results suggest that access, mobilization and returns are deeply and differently stratified by social position. While higher-status individuals have greater access to migrant networks, lower-status prospective migrants are more dependent on migrant social capital to migrate and are more likely to mobilize it to help finance the trip.

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 Presented in Session 7. Migration & Urbanization