No.72 Do Corruption Experiences Promote Emigration? Observational and Experimental Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa

John Maara and Barry Maydom



How does corruption influence emigration decisions? Previous research has focused on the relationship between individuals’ perceptions of corruption and their desire to emigrate internationally. In this paper, we argue that personal experiences of corruption affect the desire to emigrate even more strongly than perceptions to escape from extortion and demands for bribes. To explore the relationship between corruption experiences and emigration, we analyze three sources of data: the Local Governance Performance Index 2019 survey, Round 7 of Afrobarometer, and an original survey experiment. We use Afrobarometer to model the effect of different types of corruption experiences on both emigration intentions and specific emigration plans. We conduct a vignette experiment in Kenya in which respondents rate the desirability of emigration for a hypothetical countryman with varying experiences of corruption. We analyze the LPGI to explore how local-level experiences of corruption affect community leaders’ assessment of the desirability of emigration. We find that personal experiences of corruption are a strong push factor for migration and that this relationship does not vary with education levels. Our study extends the literature by focussing on how personal experiences of corruption shape migration.


Keywords: migration, corruption, bribery, sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya, survey experiment