The concept of migration aspirations and their separation from migration abilities has been a major advancement in research on the foundational question of why and under what conditions people desire to move. This is attested by a veritable boom in publications using the lens in recent years. Yet, the concept remains somewhat elusive and often suffers from inconsistent operationalisation across studies. Moreover, there remains a fundamental blind spot in the literature, that is, how and under what conditions a person’s migration aspirations change and adapt over time. This project is dedicated to this issue. Specifically, it will focus on the role of changes in personal circumstances and migration opportunity structures, as well as migration-related experiences for adaptation processes of migration aspirations. Furthermore, the project will investigate the dynamics of how and why migrants’ initial aspirations to settle, return, or migrate onward when arriving at a destination may change over the course of their sojourn at the destination. The project’s theoretical insights will be developed through empirical mixed-methods research on adaptation processes in migration aspirations of young Nepalis living in Nepal’s urban centres, as well as young South Asian migrants living in Portugal—an emerging destination hub for South Asians with a seemingly paradoxical effect of its liberal citizenship policies attracting migrants with both settlement and onward migration aspirations. To lay the groundwork for these theoretical and empirical insights, the project will develop and operationalise key conceptual dimensions of migration aspirations and indices of change, allowing for the detection and measurement of subtle changes over time. However, the utility of this conceptual work will go beyond research on adaptability of aspirations to generally improve the precision, operationalisation, and measurement of migration aspirations. Beyond this innovative potential for foundational advances in migration studies, the project’s research objectives are highly relevant for contemporary policy issues, that is, whether migration aspirations can be ‘managed’ and influenced, for instance through restrictive or encouraging immigration regulations or so-called ‘information campaigns’.


Duration 01/11/2023 - 30/10/2026
Funding Bundesländer (inkl. deren Stiftungen und Einrichtungen)

Department for Migration and Globalisation

Center for Migration and Globalisation Research

Principle investigator for the project (University for Continuing Education Krems) Josef Neubauer, MA MSc B.A.
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