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Network Externalities and Migration: An Agent-Based Model Distinguishing Documented and Undocumented Flows

20 May 2013

Miranda Simon

According to theory on migration networks, when the stock of migrants at destination reaches critical mass, it attracts future migrants by virtue of the positive network externalities it generates. These network externalities can take the form of monetary or employment search assistance or it may simply mean reducing information asymmetry through communication. At a micro level, networks facilitate the interaction individuals need to inform and finance their decision to  migrate. At a macro-level, as the migrant network evolves and its density increases, it can either attract or repel future flows.

The theory can also be extended to make distinctions between legal and undocumented migration patterns. Migrating without documents involves putting oneself through a greater amount of personal danger for an unknown or possibly inexistent reward, than legal migrants. Hence, unauthorised migrants acting rationally will only leave the country when sufficient others have migrated, regardless of status, as they face higher risks and are more dependent on others for help. The theory will be tested using an agent-based simulation, allowing us to observe the emergent collective behaviour that underlies migration and the evolution of migrant networks through time. The result will be a simulation tool that can facilitate prediction of future incoming legal and unauthorised migration based on the characteristics of the migrant network existing on their side of the border.