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Panel session 'Welfare inequalities and migration' at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG)


A panel session will be organized at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers on March 29 - April 2, 2016 in San Francisco, California.


The session will be organized by Christof Van Mol (NIDI) and Sónia Pereira (IGOT/CEG, Universidade de Lisboa).



Our panel seeks to address how inequalities in provisions of welfare across states have impacted migration aspirations, decisions, flows and experiences. Explanations of migration predominantly focus on regional (spatial) inequalities in terms of income and employment. As such, they miss out the potentially important role of differences in welfare regimes in destination and origin countries/states in affecting migration aspirations, decisions, flows and experiences, and hence, their potentially crucial role in attracting and retaining migrants. Therefore, our aim is to assess the role of welfare systems in both countries/states of origin and destination on migration patterns (macro level) and migration aspirations, decision-making processes and experiences (micro level).

The way in which origin and receiving welfare regimes affect migration has remained surprisingly under-studied. Prior work has only partially captured the role of welfare provisions in mobility patterns by taking an exclusively (macro level) receiving country/state perspective. This has resulted in a strong bias that ignores the role of the country/state of origins' welfare regimes in migration. This is unfortunate as from a theoretical perspective, social security and socio-economic inequality in origin countries/states are expected to play a major role in migration decision-making.

While a macro-perspective serves to identify patterns, trends and correlations between migration and characteristics of welfare systems, a micro-perspective is crucial to uncover the social mechanisms explaining these patterns, and in particular the role of perceptions of welfare provisions and their transferability in the formation of migration aspiration, decisions and experiences. In order to fill these theoretical and empirical gaps, the overarching questions to be addressed are, how different types of welfare arrangements in both origin and destination shape migration patterns (macro perspective), and how perceptions of welfare provisions and their transferability in origin and potential destination countries/states shape migration aspirations, decisions and experiences (micro and meso perspective). Conceptually, we consider both formal welfare arrangements, available through public/state institutions, as well as informal, family and community based arrangements. Another potential line of inquiry is how migration impacts inequalities in terms of transforming welfare provisions in both destination and sending countries/states. We also welcome contributions focusing on the legal aspects of welfare transferability, as well as practical barriers and opportunities in relation to welfare arrangements encountered by migrants. Finally, we are interested in aspirations and experiences related to migration and welfare for different phases in the life-course, including, for example, students, workers and retirement migrants.


Chair: Christof Van Mol



1.    Cathrine Talleraas, Migration management by other means: How welfare policy shapes transnational mobility

2.    Anna Gavanas, Swedish retirement migrants and domestic services in Spain: privatization, informalization and moral economy between welfare states,          markets and family

3.    Milena Belloni, "Constructing the ideal destination": Welfare-related rumours, expectations and representations among Eritrean refugees on their way to        Northern Europe

4.    Eve Bantman, Senior Mobility and Retirement-Related Migration Policies

5.    Paolo Boccagni, Remitting (in)equality? A new research agenda on the migration-welfare nexus and its transnational aftermaths




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