Choice or Mimetism in the Decision to Migrate? A European Illustration

This paper examines the role of herd behavior (mimetism) and network effects as determinants of bilateral migration flows to thirteen of the EU-15 countries. Using an adapted gravity model controlling for economic activity, welfare progressivity, geospatial, and historic relationships, the results force us to question the ways in which we explain migration flows. Herd behavior influences positively the flows of migrants to Europe, whereas the existence of network complementarities in the receiving country does not consistently predict and may in some cases reduce the likelihood of immigrant inflows. Moreover, economic activity and particularly labor market conditions play a lesser role in migrants' choice of location than was previously thought. The introduction of herd behavior as a determinant of European Migration in our empirical analysis changes the paradigm for understanding migration and suggests that prior definitions of social perceptions are inadequate.
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