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Are Migrants Selected on Motivational Orientations?

Migration scholars often assume migrants are the most ambitious and motivated individuals of their home countries. Yet research on motivational selectivity is scant. We present the first systematic cross-national analysis of migrants’ selectivity on achievement-related motivational orientations (ARMOs). We measure ARMOs using a validated scale that combines orientations towards socioeconomic success, risk, and money. Matching the European Social Survey and the World Value Survey cumulative data sets, we examine whether international migrants recently arrived in Europe are more achievement-oriented than those observational equivalents that do not migrate. We focus on migrants from nine different origins (France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Morocco, Brazil, and Andean countries) sampled at different European destinations varying in gross domestic product, type of welfare state, and linguistic distance. Our findings seem to contradict the arguments about a common migrant personality put forward by social psychologists, as well as most of the predictions of standard economic models. We do find, however, some support for the welfare magnet hypothesis, as well as for the expectation that gender traditionalism favours negative selectivity of migrant women. We show that reported estimates are not driven by educational selectivity and are unlikely to be biased by destination effects.

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