EconPol Europe Study Reveals Motivations of Emigrants and Gender Gap in Views on Redistribution of Income

| Press release

An EconPol Europe analysis of self-selected emigrants from Denmark shows that work is the main consideration for men, while family reasons are the primary motivation for women to emigrate. The study also reveals that women who emigrate are more in favor of increasing income redistribution, while most men view redistribution negatively.

The report, according to the authors Ilpo Kauppinen (EconPol Europe, VATT Institute for Economic Research), Till Nikolka (EconPol Europe, ifo Institute, LMU Munich) and Panu Poutvaara (EconPol Europe, ifo Institute, LMU Munich), has important implications for policy in Europe, as the economic and social consequences of migration for both sending and receiving countries are tied to the reasons for emigration.

“A representative study amongst Danish emigrants allows us to provide new insights into the main motivations behind emigration, including the role of family considerations for emigration decisions from high income countries” they say.

“We found that emigrants were better educated and earned more prior to emigration than the rest of the population. Work was the dominant motivation to emigrate among men, while for women family considerations were most important.”

“When investigating the emigrant’s opinions on redistribution of income, we found an intriguing gender difference: men who emigrate from Denmark tend to be more negative towards increasing income redistribution in Denmark than those who stay in the country, while women who emigrate are more in favor of increasing income redistribution in Denmark than those who stay.”

“Identifying migrants’ views about fair redistribution is important to policy makers in countries worried about brain drain due to heavy redistribution,” they continue. “If potential migrants view generous redistribution as fair but are reluctant to pay for it in the form of high taxes, then increasing the salience of redistribution financed with high tax revenue could encourage them to stay. However, if potential migrants view the prevailing level of redistribution excessive from a fairness perspective, this could encourage emigration.”

The study also revealed:

  • 54% of male respondents emigrated due to work reasons
  • 47% of female respondents and 19% of male respondents stated family reasons as the main motivation to emigrate
  • After migration, female labor force participation drops substantially and is particularly low among couples migrating outside Nordic countries (a drop of 23%)
  • Among men emigrating outside Nordic countries, 67% of those in high-skilled positions are against increasing redistribution in Denmark, with 26% in favor.
  • Of those men in low-skilled or medium-skilled occupations, 50% are in favor of increasing redistribution and 37% against.
  • Among women, support for increasing distribution is larger than opposition among both skill groups.
  • A majority of women also support more redistribution in their current country of residence.

According to the United Nations, 22.8 million people born in one of the EU15 countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom) live outside their country of origin. Of those, 43% live in another EU country and 12% in the United States.

Read the full report:

For further information about the report, contact Panu Poutvaara at