The Welfare State as Safety Net in Migration Preferences: Empirical Evidence from an Experiment Among Dutch Master Students

The welfare state can be perceived as a safety net which helps individuals adjust to situations of risk or transition. Starting from this idea of the welfare state as safety net, this study addresses whether and how welfare generosity may infuence people’s willingness to migrate. In doing so, we distinguish between two potential mechanisms, innovatively focusing on welfare provisions in both the country of origin and destination. First, a generous welfare system in the country of origin may have a retaining impact, as individuals may be unwilling to migrate to countries ofering less social protection. Second, generous welfare provisions in the country of destination may enable migration for individuals who are more intolerant of uncertainty and who otherwise would prefer to remain immobile. The findings suggest that welfare arrangements are mainly serving a safety net function and need to be understood in relative terms between the country of origin and destination.