Immigration Behavior: Toward a Social-Psychological Model for Research

By Demirdjian, Z. S. Andrew; Mokatsian, Zara | Journal of Business and Educational Leadership, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

Immigration Behavior: Toward a Social-Psychological Model for Research


Demirdjian, Z. S. Andrew, Mokatsian, Zara, Journal of Business and Educational Leadership


INTRODUCTION

Migration and immigration activities have been germane to both human and animal kingdoms. While migration is now largely undertaken by animals in a grander and more patterned approach, immigration activities have been specifically in the domain of Homo sapiens.

As a rule, animal migration represents a collective travel with long destinations. The act suggests premeditation and unwavering willfulness known to humans as inherited instincts. On the other hand, immigration has been a complex process beyond simple explanations. Contrary to animal migration, human immigration has been disorganized, sporadic, and downright enigmatic.

Recently, biologists have identified five major characteristics that apply in varying degrees and combinations to all migrations (Quammen 2010). They involve prolonged travel that carries animals outside their familiar habitats. Their movements are rather linear (not zigzagging). They entail certain behaviors of preparation such as overeating for the long and arduous trek. They demand special allocation of energy. Finally, the migrating animals maintain a strong commitment to the greater mission, which keeps them undisturbed from side temptations and undeterred by challenges (e.g., storms) that would turn other animals aside when in non-migrating mode. The long and perilous journey must be continued at all costs.

An example of the animal commitment for a course of action is the wildebeests' yearly migration. Once the herd decides to migrate, none of the rivers such as the Massai River in Kenya, albeit deeply infested by ferocious crocodiles, would deter them from crossing the dangerous, murky waters hiding death and destruction. One by one, they all plunge, as though suicidal, into the river toward greener pastures without any attempt to retreat to their old habitats. Thus, the exodus cannot be reversed regardless of any real or potential deadly hindrance or hurdles.

Animals seem to migrate for two major reasons: one reason is for moving into a more favorable environment such as birds escarping harsh winters to warm locations; the second reason is to find abundance of good food for survival and propagation of their species (Teague 2010).

To a lesser degree, humans such as the Laps of Norway and the Mongols in Asia till today also migrate for the same two reasons as cited above: better climate and better food supply for their domestic animals.

When it comes to humans as to why they immigrate, economists and other social-scientists provide us with a myriad of isolated reasons (Fortuny and Jargowsky 2010). An extensive review of the literature and a meta-analysis of studies on immigration, lead one to conclude that the main purpose of immigration can be subsumed under two major categories of incentives: material and non-material (Fuligni, A. J. 2001).

Material incentives are mainly economic benefits (e.g., better standard of living), while non-material incentives would consist of social-psychological reasons such as seeking a safe haven or as for a chance for self-actualization.

In this article, after a brief introduction to migration and immigration contrasts, the dire need is discussed for a theory, a map for the study of how an individual makes a decision to either immigrate or not to immigrate when the opportunity to move and live in another country presents itself. Secondly, a theoretical model of immigration behavior based on a social-psychological perspective is presented. Thirdly, a verbal statement of the model is briefly discussed. Finally, a walkthrough example is given to show how the decision process takes place within the context of the proposed model, followed by a conclusion.

THE NEED FOR A THEORY OF IMMIGRATION TO GUIDE RESEARCH

Studies on immigration, whether scientific or anecdotal, have isolated mainly material factors such as better opportunities, availability of jobs, better standard of living to cite a few (Scott 1998; Suarez-Orozco and Suarez-Orozco 1995). …

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