Transnational families versus family reunification. Who follows whom, when, where and why? New evidence from migration between Senegal and Europe

Amparo Gonzalez-Ferrer, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)
Cris Beauchemin, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Pau Baizán, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Policy makers in most European receiving countries express a great concern about reunification of migrants’ families. At the same time, migration scholars have increasingly focused their attention on the phenomenon of transnational families. A myriad of in-depth qualitative case-studies have drawn attention to the great diversity and fluidity of transnational families. But, so far, quantitative evidence is scarce. It is not clear yet when and why some transnational families evolve into reunified immigrant families, and whether reunification is more likely to be accomplished at the destination or the origin country. This is what the present paper aims to explore by utilising life-course retrospective data on Senegalese migrants and their families. Namely, we will examine which are the main factors that affect the probability of Senegalese migrants of living together with their partners in either the origin or the destination country, after a migration-related separation period. Our analyses will use the new data of the MAFE-Senegal project (Migration between Africa and Europe, 2008). This dataset is especially suited to the study of family arrangements across borders for two reasons. First, it contains data collected both in Dakar among non-migrants and return migrants, and among Senegalese migrants in their main European destinations (France, Italy and Spain). Second, for all these individuals, the questionnaire was designed to collect longitudinal retrospective information, including a large range of information on housing and occupation histories of the interviewed persons, as well as on their family history (children, partnerships). Interestingly, the questionnaire includes a whole module on the international migrations of the interviewee relatives, in addition of the modules describing his/her personal experience of international migration (when he/she has lived at least 12 months outside Senegal). Thus, the nature of the data allows us to perform event-history analysis in order to study the determinants of family reunification.

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Presented in Session 57: Transnational relations between origin and destination

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