Health and access to healthcare as drivers for international migration in Africa: An empirical analysis

January 2018 to December 2022
health (general)
international migration
human development
Research fields
Business and Economics
Medicine and Health Sciences
  • A large number of empirical studies already looked into explaining the determining factors of (bilateral) migration flows and aspirations to migrate, emphasizing numerous driving forces for migration. Yet, there is surprisingly little empirical evidence on a possible impact of personal health and local healthcare influencing international migration aspirations and the materialisation of these aspirations into actual migration. There is, however, increasing interest in the idea that personal health and local healthcare might contribute to migration patterns. For instance, recent studies looking into the nexus between climate change, health(care) and migration acknowledge that health(care) might be a driver for population movements (see among others Schütte et al., 2018; McMichael et al., 2012), yet little or no empirical evidence exists to support this. Especially for the case of Africa, which remains characterised by weak health systems and lack of resources and still (notwithstanding considerable improvements) carries the highest burden of disease worldwide (WHO-AFRO, 2014), these factors might be important in spurring or impeding international migration behaviour. 
  • In light of this, this research project will focus on the under-researched impact of health(care) on migration by empirically exploring to what extent African migration across countries can be explained by self-reported health status and assessment of the local availability of quality healthcare. Making use of unique individual level data that is comparable across countries, this study will track Africans' migration aspirations and subsequent materialisation of those aspirations into actual migration from 47 African countries between 2009-2015 (2020 when access).
  • From a development perspective, this study aims to shed light on the role of international migration as an additional channel through which poor health and dissatisfaction with local availability of quality healthcare can influence origin economies which lag behind on the achievement of the SDG’s related to ensuring healthy lives for all by pushing individuals abroad.