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Relative standing and temporary migration: Empirical evidence from the South Caucasus


Review of Development Economics

Published online on


This paper empirically investigates the relationship between households’ relative deprivation and the intentions of their members to temporarily migrate abroad in three transition economies of the South Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. To capture respondents’ relative deprivation, we use self‐reported information on respondents’ perception of the relative standing of their household in comparison to those of their neighbors. Controlling for households’ absolute income and other relevant subjective dimensions, we illustrate that households’ relative position vis‐à‐vis their reference groups plays an important role in determining the intentions of their members to migrate abroad. In particular, individuals are more willing to engage in temporary emigration if they perceive themselves to be poorer than the reference group. Our results may have important policy implications. A conjectural suggestion of our empirical exercise is that if migration has to be curbed, reducing absolute poverty alone may not be sufficient. In addition, policy‐makers may need to decrease relative income differentials within the country.