Meeting Report

The UCD Gifford Migration Workgroup “works in progress” January 24, 2013 from 12-2pm in SSH 273 attracted 20 UCD faculty and graduate students from Agricultural and Resource Economics, Human and Community Development, Geography, Sociology and the Law School.

The meeting began with some opening remarks from Ali Chaudhary regarding the upcoming “working papers” meeting February 28, 2013. Professor Phil Martin also made some comments about the “later-stage working paper” meetings and the addition of a 10 minute current migration policy discussion at the beginning of the meetings. Professor Martin also announced an all-day conference to be held at UCD on April 18, 2013 consisting of a UC/European panel discussing the role of experts in setting migration numbers, especially for employment. After brief participant introductions, the meeting proceeded with presentations and discussions of the two papers.

Paper 1: The Last Straw: Quality of Governance, Public Institutions

by Robin Savinar (sociology)
Discussant-Jean-Yves Merilus (Geography)

The first paper was contributed by sociology PhD student Robin Savinar, who explained that the paper began in methods course and was intended to be a qualifying paper required for advancing to PhD candidacy. The paper examined the effects of individual attributes and national-level indicators of governance on migration intentions in Latin American countries, that is, the data are from individuals who did not leave the country. The individual data are from the Latinobarómetro public opinion poll, and Savinar and linked them with country-level World Bank data for analysis using hierarchical linear modeling.

Net of compositional and contextual controls, the probability of considering migration is 10% higher among individuals who are less satisfied with democracy in their country, and 14% higher among those disappointed with the state of public education. Country-level variables are not statistically significant, suggesting that individual experiences with governance are more important than ‘objective’ governance conditions.

The paper was discussed by a PhD student in Geography, who raised important questions about how democracy and public education were measured, and whether these measures adequately capture the quality of governance. The discussant also felt that average GDP per capita was a highly problematic measure.  The general discussion offered Savinar suggestions and raised questions about the measurement and logic of the paper, especially the apparent disconnect between the author’s theoretical frame and the variables used to test it. Professor Guarnizo examined the questionnaire for the survey from the data and found several variables could have been included in the models.

Paper 2: Establishing (Un)certainty: Knowledge Production on Climate Change and Migration

by Zeke Baker (sociology)
Discussant-Robin Savinar (sociology)

Baker wrote this paper for a seminar in demography. His goal is to examine congressional meetings and statements to understand the role of the State in framing the climate change- migration nexus as a national security issue. 

The discussant acknowledged the ambitious goal and the importance of climate change as an emerging field in migration studies, and highlighted several limitations of the analysis. She suggested that Baker clarify the purpose of the literature review and explain how his critique fits into existing literature. 

Most of the other discussion followed a similar theme, that is, acknowledging the importance of the research topic and the potential for analysis of the state in issues of migration and climate change. However, it was recognized that there is little data on exactly how climate change may change migration patterns. The role of the state in the climate change- migration nexus may be influenced by the availability of resources, prompting a suggestion for more political science research to better understand the centrality of the state.