PhD project: The human consequences of involuntary immobility

January 2023 to December 2026
health (mental)
life aspirations
human development
in Senegal
Research fields
Business and Economics
Medicine and Health Sciences
Social Sciences

Large numbers of young people around the world, particularly in developing countries, wish to migrate but lack the capacity to do so. This phenomenon has been called “involuntary immobility”, and may pose important challenges for human development. Yet, while immobility is numerically larger than migration, it is for now a largely unexplored area of research.

This project fills this gap in the literature by conceptualizing and empirically investigating the extent to which involuntary immobility affects human development. We focus on three dimensions: individuals’ subjective well-being and mental health, their life aspirations, and behavioral responses and alternatives for migration. Focusing on those who perceive themselves to be immobile against their wish, we seek to understand why some ‘feel stuck’ and disillusioned, while others cognitively and behaviourally adapt their aspirations in favour of alternatives to migration, or alternative migration options and destinations.

We particularly aim to understand the key factors and resources that explain these aspirational ‘pathways’. These objectives inform our research design that combines ethnographic and survey methods, and employs both existing data (from different contexts) and newly-collected longitudinal (panel) data in Senegal. Our interdisciplinary consortium integrates insights from economics, sociology, health and cognitive-behavioural sciences to make a novel contribution to the migration and development fields.